Chances that central defender Nemanja Vidic has played his last game for Manchester United appear to be increasing by the day as Sir Alex Ferguson accelerates his efforts to sign a replacement. The two front runners are Juventus’ Italian international Giorgio Chiellini and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer from Palermo. As well as an expected £20m bid from Manchester City for Vidic, Real Madrid also want to secure a deal by offering French striker Karim Benzema as a sweetener for a Vidic transfer.
Should City succeed in snaring the Serbian from Old Trafford, it would present a massive blow to Ferguson and a coup for Blues manager Roberto Mancini. Reports suggest that City is willing to offer Vidic a four year contract worth £6m a season and is expected to make a move within the next few days.
New Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is also keen to tempt the big central defender away from United as he tries to reinforce a suspect backline at the Bernabeau. Vidic’s agent has already indicated that a transfer away from Old Trafford could be considered once World Cup commitments to Serbia are finished. As for Sir Alex, he could find an exchange deal involving Benzema attractive because he already has Jonny Evans and the incoming Chris Smalling available to cover for the loss of Vidic.
United made a strong attempt to land Benzema from Lyon this time last year but the 22 year old striker preferred to go to Madrid instead for a reported £35m. Sir Alex has a high opinion of the France international who struggled in his first season amongst the multi million pound Galacticos which eventually cost him a place in the French World Cup squad.
In the event of Mourinho being successful in luring Vidic away from United, Ferguson is understood to be looking at having additional insurance by launching a £25million bid for Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. The 25 year old Juventus defender is Ferguson’s first choice to replace the Old Trafford 2009 Player of the Year should he end up quitting United as is now widely expected.
Chiellini is paying little attention to the speculation however declaring that he is happy to stay in Turin even though he had to suffer a turbulent 2009-10 campaign. Failure to qualify for the Champions League has put their best players in the shop window but Chiellini is not one of them. He has made it clear that remaining in Turin would not be a problem.
His agent Davide Lippi claims to be unaware of the mounting interest in his client declaring that “I have never heard from United and I don’t know anything. I am waiting for a call from Juventus in relation to an extension, but no one has contacted us”
Although Chiellini is one of the bigger names in Serie A, he only earns a modest £1.7m a year and has two seasons left on his current contract. It’s widely believed that Juve would accept a bid for him as they look to rebuild their squad under new coach Luigi Del Neri.
Mindful that a surprise is always possible, Ferguson made sure that he retains a plan B up his sleeve. The old fox has made it known that Palermo central defender Simon Kjaer is a possible replacement for Vidic. The Danish international is valued at £10m and is widely regarded as one of the top defenders in Serie A.
While one Serbian international may well be on the way out of Old Trafford before the start of the new Premier League season, another has ended his loan spell at Bundesliga club FC Cologne with a transfer to CSKA Moscow. Zoran Tosic has signed a five year contract with the Russian club after failing to make a first team breakthrough at Old Trafford.
The 23 year old joined United in January 2009 from Partizan Belgrade in a joint deal with fellow youngster Adem Ljajic. Tosic is a member of Serbia’s World Cup squad in South Africa while Ljajic was transferred by United to Serie A club Fiorentina in January.
Has Ferguson signed up too many young players with the sole intention of selling them on?