Monday 18 December 2017

Zlatan out as Reds eye Mor'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave Manchester United after one season at the club.

The 35-year-old is out of contract this summer and was not included on a list of retained players released by the club this afternoon.

Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals in his one season at Old Trafford after arriving on a free transfer from Paris Saint Germain last summer.

Jose Mourinho had been convinced to extend his contract and keep him on for another season but a knee ligament injury against Anderlecht in the Europa League cut his season short.

Despite undergoing succesful surgery in America in May, the Swede is not expected to return until January at the earliest.

Alvaro Morata. Pic: Reuters
Alvaro Morata. Pic: Reuters

It is believed that United decided against offering him a new deal on wages reported to be around £300,000 a week.

Ibrahimovic won the Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield in his season at the club. Mourinho has confirmed his interest in Alvaro Morata as a replacement for Ibrahomivic - telling sources close to him of his admiration for the Real Madrid striker.

Morata has emerged as a leading target in United's pursuit of a new number nine.

Mourinho is convinced he can provide the cutting edge his side lacked last season - and replace the Swede at the point of his attack.

The United manager - who handed Morata his debut at Real in 2010 - also believes the 24-year-old has the physical attributes to cope with the Premier League.

He brackets him in the same category as Didier Drogba, Diego Costa and Ibrahimovic as a target man, who is effective with his head and his feet. Mourinho prioritised an orthodox centre forward, following Ibrahimovic's knee-ligament injury that is expected to rule the Swede out until January at the earliest.

Antoine Griezmann - who had been United's primary target - was considered more of a number 10 or a goal-scoring wide man.

Mourinho has made powerful centre forwards key to his success throughout his career - and proved particularly adept at identifying strikers suited to the Premier League. Morata is among a clutch of forwards he believed could fulfil the role, along with Romelu Lukaku and Torino's Andrea Belotti.

But it is the Spaniard who has emerged as the leading contender, with executive vice chairman Ed Woodward exploring the possibility of a deal.

United must now convince Morata his World Cup ambitions will be improved by a move to Old Trafford.

Despite being valued by Zinedine Zidane, he remains down the pecking order at Real - and could have his first team opportunities further reduced if Kylian Mbappe completes a world record move to the Champions League winners.

Morata claimed it would be "crazy" to leave Real over recent days - but he is also determined to play regularly.

Real are believed to want in excess of £70m - but Woodward will attempt to negotiate a significantly lower price for a player Real signed back from Juventus for £26m 12 months ago.

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