Pietro Pellegri: Everything You Need to Know About the Talented Young Italian

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FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO-DIJON | VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

It’s fair to say things haven’t quite gone to plan so far for Pietro Pellegri since making a €25m switch from Genoa to Monaco in January 2018.

Unfortunately for Pellegri, who was labelled the ‘new Lionel Messi’ by Genoa’s owner back in 2015, he has become more recognised in recent times for his abilities on Football Manager rather than his on-field performances, as he’s majorly struggled with injuries.

Due to his injury record, it would be easy to forget that Pellegri has only recently celebrated his 19th birthday and has time on his side. Despite his lack of game time, it recently emerged that Manchester United are once again keen on signing him – having tracked the striker since he was 16-years-old.

With United reigniting their interest in the young Italian, 90min have decided to delve into his background and tell you all you need to know.

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FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO | VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

It actually wasn’t long ago when Pellegri first announced himself to the world as a professional footballer, making his debut aged just 15 years and 280 days.

However, prior to even joining Genoa, he and his father were invited by Man Utd to visit the club’s training facilities and watch the Red Devils take on Chelsea at Old Trafford – but they opted against a move, instead believing Genoa was the best place for Pietro. United spotted his talent early on, but they were aren’t able to make the move happen.

On Pellegri’s full debut for Genoa against Roma, he cooly slotted home to become the first player born in 2001 to score in Serie A. The then-16-year-old scored with his first touch of the game after just three minutes to immediately steal the headlines away from the departing Francesco Totti. Pellegri was hugely impressive and his confidence was immediately clear for all to see.

Pellegri would go on to make ten appearances for Genoa’s senior side, scoring three times, before sealing a move away in January 2018. A whole host of European giants were looking to bring in the young talent (including United), but it was Monaco who secured his services for around €25m.

Sure, it was a lot of money for a 16-year-old, but Genoa were actually originally looking for around €40m as they were aware of his abilities. Pellegri wasn’t just any young player, clubs from around Europe recognised the talent he possessed.

However, since making the switch, Pellegri has struggled with injuries and, as a result, he has made just six appearances for his club. Moreover, the Italian did not feature at all in the 2019/20 campaign. Nonetheless, he became the first player born in the 21st century to score in Ligue 1 when he found the net against against Bordeaux.

That remains the only goal he’s scored for Monaco up to this point, however.

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FBL-FRA-LIGUE 1-BORDEAUX-MONACO | NICOLAS TUCAT/Getty Images

During Pellegri’s time playing for the youth teams at Genoa, he occupied the centre forward role in a number of different formations. The Under-19 side would use a 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formation as well as the 4-3-3 set up on occasion. Despite the differing formations and approaches, Pellegri was the recognised centre forward when playing.

During this time, Pellegri was most threatening when playing in the 4-4-2 formation, linking up well with his fellow striker. He would be able to hold the ball up well before making his runs and finding space to fire a shot towards goal.

When Pellegri started against Roma on his full debut for Genoa, he operated as a supporting striker and he once again thrived. However, Pellegri can also operate as the lone striker, grabbing two goals against Lazio back in 2017 while operating up front by himself in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

As for his time at Monaco, his performances have been so rare that the systems he’s been used in there don’t carry much significance.

Pellegri is capable of shining either as a lone striker or alongside a supporting attacker, but the crucial thing for the Italian is service. He requires runners off the ball and service from wingers and full-backs to allow him to be most dangerous.

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FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO-ANGERS | VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

At just 19 years of age, Pellegri has time on his side. And despite being just a teenager, he is already fairly well built and physically imposing. Standing 6ft 2in, Pellegri is strong in the air, powerfully rising to either bring in long passes or knock the ball down with his head. Equally, the youngster can be an asset to his side in both boxes because of his aerial ability.

It’s therefore no surprise to hear that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is his idol.

Moreover, Pellegri has shown during his short career to date that he’s a player that can thrive on the biggest stages. Composed in front of goal and able to link up play, Pellegri has all the attributes to become a world class striker.

Not only that, Pellegri uses his understanding and awareness to make runs off the ball, showing his pace to beat a man or simply opening up the space for other players to attack.

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FBL-ITA-SERIEA-ROMA-GENOA | VINCENZO PINTO/Getty Images

Pellegri is actually a very complete footballer already. But it’s his injury record which, of course, is the major concern.

When it recently emerged that Man Utd are keen on signing him, a number of fans labelled it a surprise. But not because he isn’t good enough and could potentially be good enough to play for the Red Devils one day, instead this is a player that has managed just six appearances in over two years. Indeed, the last time Pellegri made an appearance for Monaco came back in September 2018.

Most notably, it is his groin and his hamstring that have proven to be the real problem areas – and this is a major concern.

Now 19, it is easy to look back in hindsight and perhaps argue that Pellegri was pushed too hard and treated too much like a fully developed adult when making a name for himself. However, if the appropriate measures are taken, Pellegri can overcome these issues and fulfil his potential.

In terms of his abilities on the pitch, Pellegri is not the most versatile striker. He is able to operate on the wing, but he is predominantly an attacker. In comparison, United’s young forward Mason Greenwood is capable of playing anywhere across the frontline comfortably.

However, although he doesn’t play in a number of positions, Pellegri is capable of adjusting his game based on the system used.

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Italy Training Session And Press Conference | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

In the recent reports regarding United’s interest in Pellegri, there is no mention of a fee. Pellegri’s mammoth transfer fee as a 16-year-old speaks volumes about the potential Monaco saw in him, as well as his overall ability at the time.

Now 19, Pellegri is still young and has more than enough time to overcome his injury problems and blossom into a top level player. As a result, should Monaco allow him to leave, they would likely demand an interested party forks out a similar sum to the amount they paid for his services back in 2018.

However, due to the coronavirus, this may not be the case. The financial impact of the crisis shouldn’t be ignored and if United – or another club – were to come in with a reasonable proposal, Monaco may be inclined to sell. They have struggled to keep Pellegri fit and it could prove to be most beneficial for both the player and the club if they were to part ways.

It would, of course, be a risk for a club to splash the cash on an injury prone striker – but it could prove to be an outstanding piece of business if they are able to help Pellegri overcome his struggles.

For more from Adam Aladay, follow him on Twitter!

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Moussa Dembele: The Contenders to Sign the Lyon Striker and Where He Might End Up

Moussa Dembele
Olympique Lyon v Juventus – UEFA Champions League | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

In a rich and wonderful world of many footballing Dembele’s, the one creating the most column inches of late is Moussa.

No, not Tottenham’s former midfield destroyer, nor the 19-year-old forward who plays in Austria’s third tier, nor is it the midfielder currently plying his trade for Senegalese side AS Pikine.

It’s the fella who plays up front for Lyon. He used to play for Fulham and Celtic. With the beard?

Have you got it? Good.

After impressing in Ligue 1 this season with 16 goals in 27 games, the striker is attracting the interest of some well known clubs. But which of them is he most likely to end up signing for? 90min gazed into our crystal ball to try and find out.

Granit XhakaGranit Xhaka
Arsenal FC v Olympiacos FC – UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg | Julian Finney/Getty Images

Several things would need to happen before Arsenal contemplated bringing Dembele to the Emirates Stadium in the summer.

The board have already implicitly conceded that any incoming transfers would have to be funded through player sales and, to be honest, the club already boasts impressive strength in depth up front.

For the Frenchman to arrive then, either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette would have to be sold as this would create money to spend and positions in the starting XI to fill. The perfect storm for a Dembele shaped transfer saga.

The only stumbling block would be convincing the 23-year-old to sacrifice Champions League football as Arsenal seem unlikely to break into the top four before the end of the season.

As stumbling blocks go, this is a biggie. Good thing Mikel Arteta seems like such as dashing, sweet talker then. The Spaniard is going to need to pull out his best schmoozing to broker this deal.

Liklihood Rating: 4/10

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SS Lazio v FC Internazionale – Serie A | Silvia Lore/Getty Images

One of the reports doing the rounds of late suggested that Lautaro Martinez’s likely departure for Barcelona in the summer would spark a chain reaction of transfers across the continent.

The story goes…Inter’s desire to replace Martinez would lead to them raiding Arsenal for Lacazette, who in turn would plunder Lyon for Dembele. But hey, what if Antonio Conte just skips a step and snaps up Dembele himself?

He doesn’t quite the fit the bill of the sort of signing that Conte has fancied since taking over at Inter – mainly because he’s not a slightly washed up Premier League full-back – but he did enjoy a brief spell in the English top flight which is bound to get the Italian’s heart beating quicker.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that Dembele would be a well suited replacement for Martinez either. Key to Inter’s success during the first half of the season was the partnership the Argentine struck up with Romelu Lukaku.

Though Dembele has largely played as a loan striker during his career so far, he been deployed in a front two on occasion. Lukaku as the link man and the Frenchman as the penalty box prowler is an exciting concept that could take Serie A by storm. Will it happen though? Maybe, maybe not.

Likelihood Rating (If Martinez Stays): 4/10

Likelihood Rating (If Martinez Leaves): 6/10

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Chelsea FC v Everton FC – Premier League | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea were desperate to secure Dembele’s signature back in January with their fervorous interest leading Lyon to take the unprecedented step of issuing a public ‘hands-off’ statement – that was almost certainly aimed at the Blues.

It seems Frank Lampard has not been deterred by this setback though with the club continuing to sniff around the striker.

It’s easy to see why Chelsea are so keen on the 24-year-old as well. Though Tammy Abraham has been a revelation this season, the club lacks depth at striker. Olivier Giroud may have performed the U-turn of the century by penning new terms at Stamford Bridge but Michy Batshuayi’s days are surely numbered at the club.

Dembele would be a perfect complement for Abraham. He is equally strong in the air, possess a similar willingness to work hard for the team and is also adept at operating as a lone striker. Like we said before, it’s easy to see will Chelsea are so enamored.

Likelihood Rating: 7/10

Although it has largely worked out okay, Manchester United’s mad deadline day dash to sign Odion Ighalo back in January starkly exposed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s need for offensive reinforcements.

While a deal for Jadon Sancho is quite likely – and quite exciting – United could do with a more conventional forward to relieve some of the pressure from Marcus Rashford and an unproven Mason Greenwood.

This is where Dembele comes in. There’s talk that a €70m (£61.9m) deal has already been agreed between the two clubs and while this seems to be a little bit premature, negotiations are believed to be at an advanced stage.

The Frenchman finishes better than any of the current crop of United forwards and his goal numbers have improved year after year. He also fits the Solskjaer blueprint of being young with a point to prove, making this a very intriguing and likely match.

Likelihood Rating: 8/10

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The Greatest Goals Ever Scored by Goalkeepers

Atletico Nacional goalie Rene Higuita(C) celebrate
Atletico Nacional goalie Rene Higuita(C) celebrate | PEDRO UGARTE/Getty Images

To be a goalkeeper, you have to be a bit unusual by nature.

It’s the only position the football pitch where you’re required to throw your body in the way of a ball that’s been struck with ultimate venom behind it, hitting the ground hard in the process. And that’s before you consider coming for crosses and corners, and diving at people’s feet to stop a shot.

Still, it always feels on another level of wacky when you see a goalkeeper make their way up the pitch in an attempt to bag a cheeky goal. That feeling is multiplied by 100 when they actually score.

Sometimes keepers don’t only score a goal, but they score absolute belters. With that in mind, here’s a list presenting the best goals that have ever been scored by goalkeepers.

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The big American is first on the list with a ridiculous strike. No, not Hulk Hogan.

For this one, Tim Howard clears the ball as it rolls back to him in his 18-yard box, only for it to travel most of the pitch before looping over Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan with a wicked bounce. It was a magnificent punt that a heel Randy Orton would be proud of, but Howard was quick to show sympathy for fellow keeper Bogdan after the match.

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The Great Dane was known for his incredible distribution and his intimidating size, which he used to fill the goal as one of the greatest keepers ever.

However, he used his size to his advantage at the other end of the pitch in 2001, heading into Everton’s box for a corner and smashing home a terrific volley from a loose ball in front of him. It wasn’t enough to give Aston Villa any points from the game, but it was Schmeichel’s ninth goal of a career that would see him finish with 10 in total.

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From one of Manchester United’s greatest ever goalkeepers to one of their worst.

While Italian Massimo Taibi left Manchester with an awful legacy, he made up for it upon his return to Italy in 2001, scoring a bullet header against Udinese in the dying embers of the game. The goal salvaged his side Reggina a point as the game finished 1-1.

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In similar style to that of Tim Howard’s, a clearance from Asmir Begovic just minutes into the game between Stoke and Southampton saw the ball taken by the wind and travel the length of the pitch.

Southampton keeper Artur Boruc was caught in no man’s land and left red-faced as the ball bounced and looped over him, much to the Potters’ delight.

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In 2017, newly promoted Serie A side Benevento looked destined for another defeat after being winless in their opening 14 games of the season, until their goalkeeper saved the day.

Alberto Brignoli ventured up for a corner in injury time, and scored an absolute bullet header to draw his side level with AC Milan, securing them a point in a 2-2 draw. Serious striker’s effort, that.

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Jorge Campos Galaxy | Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

This one, along with Jorge Campos’ entire career, is just ridiculous.

The Mexican shot stopper is best recognised for his flamboyant kits throughout the 90s, but people are often quick to forget that Campos was insanely gifted. Capable of playing as a keeper and a striker, the 5’6 Mexican came out from the sticks and was put up front by his coach to grab a goal, and that he did.

Campos bagged a sweet bicycle kick goal against Cruz Azul, one of many delights in his one of a kind career.

(ARCHIVO) El arquero paraguayo Jose Luis(ARCHIVO) El arquero paraguayo Jose Luis
(ARCHIVO) El arquero paraguayo Jose Luis Chilavert | MARIANO SANCHEZ/Getty Images

Jose Luis Chilavert enters the list with not one, , not two, but three goals, over in Argentina.

He remains one of two keepers ever to score a hat-trick, and was another example of the batch of eccentric goalkeepers that seemed to exist in the 90s, bagging 67 career goals. In this case, he bagged three penalties in one game, scoring a trio of goals as Velez Sarsfield won 6-1.

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Sao Paulo v Corinthians – Sao Paulo State Championship 2011 | Eduardo Anizelli/Getty Images

The only keeper to score more career goals than Chilavert? Rogerio Ceni.

The Brazilian veteran amassed over 1,000 appearances for Sao Paulo during his storied career, scoring 131 goals. Yes, 131 goals. You heard that correctly.

Here he is bagging his 100th career goal, a peach of a free kick against Corinthians.

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German goalkeeper Marwin Hitz makes the list with an effort that any striker dreams of bagging.

In the Bundesliga, Augsburg were 2-1 down in injury time versus Leverkusen, before the ball fizzed into the path of Hitz who swivelled and struck the ball home on the bounce like a veteran goal poacher.

What a hit(z), son.

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Another incredibly athletic effort, Martin Hansen’s last minute equaliser is seriously impressive.

A low free kick makes its way into the box, which Hansen is first to react to, flicking home from the penalty spot with some sort of outlandish backwards heel kick to salvage ADO Den Haag a 2-2 draw.

Incredible reactions, and a technique you could almost imagine being used in a UFC octagon.

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Atletico Nacional goalie Rene Higuita(C) celebrate | PEDRO UGARTE/Getty Images

The poster boy for silly buggers goalkeeping techniques in the 1990s, Rene Higuita let everyone know that he was more than just a stuntman with this strike.

Taking a free kick for his side Atletico National, the maverick Colombian smashed the ball top bins in Roberto Carlos-esque fashion, giving his side a 1-0 win in the Copa Libertadores semi final.

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Finishing first in our list, South African shot stopper Oscarine Masuluke was robbed when this finish only came second in the 2017 FIFA Puskas Award.

In the last minute of the game, Orlando Pirates’ keeper punches clear, only for Masuluke to leap up on the edge of the box and fire a spectacular overhead kick over everyone and into the back of the net.

The best part is the fact that he has a celebration prepared, in case, you know, he scores some sort of outlandish overhead kick goal in the last minute or something silly like that…

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Man Utd Must Avoid Repeating the Mistakes of the Past With Josh King Signing

Joshua King
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester United – Premier League | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

With the Premier League now set to return on 17 June after the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, Manchester United remain locked in negotiations with Shanghai Shenhua over the possibility of extending Odion Ighalo’s loan spell.

The Nigerian joined on loan in January to provide cover for injured forward Marcus Rashford and has had a short but fruitful spell with the Red Devils, managing four goals and an assist from eight games in all competitions.

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Manchester United v Manchester City – Premier League | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

His signing was a strange one, admittedly. After confirmation that Bruno Fernandes had joined United the night before, the Red Devils scrambled to get Ighalo over the line on deadline day having failed with a last-minute bid for Bournemouth’s Joshua King, and losing out on Erling Haaland to Borussia Dortmund.

Whether Ighalo stays at Old Trafford beyond the current season or not – and signs would suggest ‘not’ – his signing was proof that United are still crying out for a striker who can deliver consistent goals and a focal point. Both Rashford and Martial have been tried in the central number nine position and, while Martial has had some limited success, it hasn’t been consistent.

As for Rashford, he is a much greater threat playing inside from the left wing. That success means that any number nine would have the burden of goalscoring taken off him somewhat, but demands a more rounded skillset.

It looks like United are set for another busy summer transfer window as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to build on a rejuvenated squad with a newfound identity, and a striker may well be on the shopping list. With Joshua King said to be a target for four of the Premier League’s top six this summer, it is imperative that the Red Devils avoid going in for the Norwegian forward once again.

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AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United – Premier League | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

The approach for King back in January was an inherently rushed and panicked decision. With Haaland signing for Dortmund and Marcus Rashford out for most of the season (before the pandemic allowed him time to recover) United were desperate to get a striker in to replace their local lad’s impressive form and goals scored. The £25m bid for Joshua King came to nothing, and United opted for the left-field signing of former Watford man Ighalo, who is a lifelong fan of the club.

The rush for a striker unearthed some papered-over cracks at Old Trafford that many had actually been aware of for a while. The decision not to replace Romelu Lukaku last summer was audacious, but showed a patient approach and something different to the recruitment policy adopted before Solskjaer took charge.

To then go and chuck £25m at Bournemouth for a forward who is proven at mid-table level at best would have completely undermined this patience adopted in summer, and a move for him again will show the board’s lack of footballing patience. Again.

Bruno Fernandes has been a hit at Old Trafford for a number of reasons. Granted, he’s a flashy European signing for big money, so there was no excuse for him not to perform – but his attitude has also been incredibly refreshing around the club, echoing the new policy that Solskjaer is seemingly trying to implement. It’s a blend of world-class talent, a desire to play for the club and succeed in a developing project.

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Manchester United v Manchester City – Premier League | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Ighalo has followed suit in taking on board the new identity; a lifelong fan and excited by every second he’s spent at the club. To be honest, King may not have been much different. Once a product of the United academy, he would be returning with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. The difference is that Ighalo was available in the CSL’s off-season on loan terms, and King would’ve been far more pricy.

King is by no means a bad player, he’s just not an out-and-out number nine, which is what United are crying out for. Instead the Norwegian, who is now 28 and entering his peak, operates mostly as a winger or second striker coming in from out wide – the same role that both Rashford and Martial seem to operate best in.

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Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion – Premier League | Michael Regan/Getty Images

United instead need to pursue targets who are primarily central strikers. Someone who can lead the line, dominate the opposition box and freely score goals, while being supported by the pace of two supporting forwards who will also chip in. Bruno Fernandes needs a centre-forward to fire passes and direct play towards, not another versatile player that’s a jack of all trades but master of none. If United don’t get this, then it makes their Portuguese playmaker’s job much harder next season.

If the Red Devils moved for King, it would be another example of a miscalculated transfer for a player who doesn’t quite fit the tactical needs of the squad, as he would no doubt be shoehorned in as the central option and inevitably struggle. King wouldn’t exactly come cheap either, considering interest is high and their first bid of £25m was rejected.

United must take the time to properly evaluate more suitable striker options and pursue those instead. A move for King would be another sideways step, and summarise all of the inconsistencies that still exist at the club.

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Man Utd Reach Out to Mino Raiola Over Potential Deal for Roma Starlet

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
LASK v Manchester United – UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg | UEFA – Handout/Getty Images

Manchester United are interested in signing 18-year-old Roma left-back Riccardo Calafiori, who just so happens to be represented by Old Trafford favourite Mino Raiola.

United and Raiola found themselves locked in a public war of words earlier this year following Erling Haaland’s decision to snub the Red Devils in favour of joining Borussia Dortmund, with each party accusing the other of being responsible for the breakdown in negotiations.

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Matthijs De Ligt Arrives In Turin | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

The Daily Star now report that United are ready to do business with Raiola once more, and they have already reached out to the agent to try and strike a deal for Calafiori, who was watched by scouts on a number of occasions this season.

Roma have already offered a bumper new contract to Calafiori, who is yet to make his senior debut but has been named as a substitute in both Serie A and the Europa League this season.

While they would prefer to see him remain at the club, Roma are said to be willing to sell for the right price, and they hope that United’s interest will help spark a bidding war with fellow suitors Paris Saint-Germain.

United must be seriously interested in the Italian if they are willing to try rebuild their relationship with Raiola, who insisted at the end of 2019 that he would ‘never take anyone’ to Old Trafford. Raiola claimed United would ‘ruin’ Diego Maradona, Pelé and Paolo Maldini with their bad management.

A previous report from the same outlet claimed that United are hesitant to deal with Raiola, as they fear that every conversation they have with the agent will somehow end up featuring another of his clients, midfielder Paul Pogba.

With Real Madrid and Juventus sniffing around the Frenchman and Pogba keen to walk away from Old Trafford, United might want to steer clear of Raiola for a little while.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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