United have already been linked with a select group of strikers for the summer purchase, although the huge question mark over who will be the owners of the club at this stage makes it difficult to predict what condition they will be in at that time.
If a new owner or a good partial investment is not found, then, given the Glazers’ financial predicament, the club will probably look in the basement for free agents, including, perhaps, the likes of Memphis Depay or Youssafa Mukoko.
With partial investments, when the Glazers still hold the reins of power, or if a “stingy” owner comes to power, promising young strikers such as Marcus Tyram may be on the agenda.
However, with debt written off and a solid bank balance, players such as Harry Kane, Viktor Osimhen, Benjamin Cesco and Gonzalo Ramos were seen as United’s favorite targets. Given that the cost of most of them is likely to exceed 100 million euros, which would be the best choice?
Sesko represents the most long-term and potentially cheap option with the greatest potential, but also with the greatest risk. He hasn’t even played for RB Leipzig since signing with Red Bull Salzburg. He has not progressed as much as expected this season, scoring just seven goals in 25 games for Salzburg in the Austrian League and none in six in Europe. Compare this with Erling Haaland’s same season at the same club and at the same age, and you will realize that the difference is striking; in the 2019/20 season, he scored 28 goals in 22 matches for Salzburg, including 8 in 6 in the Champions League. Cesco is not the same type of player, and all players develop at different speeds, but he is definitely not a finished product yet.
As Scott Eckersley recently wrote in United Matchday magazine, Harry Kane is probably a very “affordable” option this time around. Spurs are almost resigned to losing him as his contract expires in 2024 and they won’t want to lose him just like that. He is obviously a proven Premier League scorer – few in history have proven that more — and he craves the accolades. United can also get relatively free access to him, at least in England, where City have Holand, Chelsea want to add Thuram and Nkunka, and Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez last summer. However, he will turn 30 and he may be prone to injury, and is he suitable for the Ten Haga system or will some adaptation be required? The Telegraph’s Matt Lowe says: “Manchester United have been showing interest in Kane for a long time, but there are theories that the 29-year-old does not quite fit the ideal goal profile recommended by Eric ten Haag, who is said to prefer a faster forward like Victor Osimhen from Napoli.
“This will not necessarily prevent United from making a move in Kane’s favour, but at this stage it is not considered a forgotten decision and he will be wary of once again seeking a transfer that did not happen.”
Osimhen looks like a real man, and 24 is probably the right age to sign a contract with the best striker going through his best years. Strong, direct and agile, the Nigerian has scored 12 goals out of 14 in Serie A this season for the Napoli team. However, we have seen from the example of players like Romelu Lukaku that the great scorers of the Italian League cannot necessarily repeat the same in the Premier League. Another problem is that Osimhen is likely to be the most expensive player from the group: Napoli is already talking about a price of 140 million euros, and it is notoriously difficult to negotiate with President Dino De Laurentius.
Gonzalo Ramos from Benfica is the fourth option. This season he excelled in the Portuguese League, scoring 17 goals out of 26, and declared himself on the international stage, making a brilliant hat-trick at the World Cup. He will turn 22 in the summer, and although Benfica will try to get a 120 million euro buyout fee, there will probably be a chance to negotiate this, especially if there are few competitors behind his signature. He is a smart runner and hardworking, and is perhaps best suited to the type of football Ten Hag likes to play.
So, given all of the above, who should be United’s main target if money doesn’t matter? If Ten Hag believes Kane can fit into his system, he should probably be the first choice as a proven world-class Premier League striker with potentially another four or five years to spare. If Ramos is a better fit for the Ten Hag ball, he should probably be the favorite. Osimhen and Sesko may be incredible and in some ways more exciting options, but it’s probably more of a gamble.