Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng is reportedly part of an eight-man shortlist of centre-backs that Manchester United are looking at this summer to boost their squad ahead of a crucial 2018/19 season in which the aim is to catch Manchester City, ironically Boateng’s old club.
It had recently been reported in Germany that Boateng, a Champions League and World Cup winner, is one of four players that Bayern could be willing to let go for the right price.
That was confirmed when Bayern chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge said,” If a club comes to us and he says that he wants to join that club, then we will negotiate. But the offer has to be important.”
Suddenly, fans and a frenzied media were asking themselves could United be in a position to sign a defender generally regarded as world class?
Boateng is undoubtedly an excellent player, as his reputation and medal collection proves. But there is one major problem that has so far been ignored by the reports linking him with United.
This is a player who comes complete with a concerning fitness record. He hasn’t played more than 20 games in a single league since 2014/15 and has never played more than 30. During an injury plagued 2016/17 campaign, he managed as few as 21 appearances in all competitions.
His latest problem struck in the Champions League semi final first leg against Real Madrid at the end of April. He had to be helped from the field by Bayern medical staff after just half hour because of a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the rest of the season.
Bayern lost that game and the tie without Boateng, before also going on to lose the DFB Pokal final at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt.
Can United afford to rely on a marquee defender whose season is constantly stop-start because of injury and fitness troubles? The answer is no and Jose Mourinho, who is distrusts injured players, as former Chelsea captain John Terry recalled in an interview earlier this year, will be well aware.
“There was a couple of times I was injured, not available for a couple of games coming up. Jose would come in, he wouldn’t even speak to me in the treatment room. He’d go around and speak to everybody, and walk out of the room and leave me,” Terry told the Coaches’ Voice in January.
“As captain of the football club, I was there thinking: ‘Why has he not spoken to me?’ I said to the physio: ‘I’m training tomorrow. I can’t have the manager not speaking to me.’ He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Eric Bailly’s United career has stalled after picking up injury after injury and losing the trust of the manager, while Marcos Rojo, previously a favourite, hasn’t really been back in the side since recovering from his serious knee problem.
United may well be looking into the possibility of signing Boateng. That Bayern would be willing to sell him will also have come as good news. But, ultimately, when push comes to shove and a decision has to be made, will Mourinho choose a player he won’t be able to rely on? No.