In this week’s ESPN’s Insider Notebook, Manchester United are willing to spend in January. PLUS: MLS’ Houston Dash and Houston Dynamo on their “one club” re-brand.
Solskjaer still has Woodward backing at United
Manchester United are willing to spend in the January transfer window despite the ongoing uncertainty of the financial impact of the coronavirus, sources told ESPN, with Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano among the names on United’s wish list.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has repeatedly urged caution, insisting he will have to manage the club’s resources “carefully” until the pandemic is over. However, sources told ESPN that he will back manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with funds in the January transfer market if an opportunity to sign a long-term target presents itself.
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United, who have not had supporters at Old Trafford since March, estimate each home game played behind closed doors costs the club between £4 million-£5m. They have already lost more than £70m as a direct consequence of the pandemic.
Solskjaer is not expecting to spend heavily in January, but Woodward, chief negotiator Matt Judge and the recruitment department will check on key long-term targets after the impressive impact made by midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who arrived last January in a deal from Sporting Lisbon that was initially worth €55m but could rise to €80m. — Rob Dawson
Saliba seeks loan exit at Arsenal
Arsenal centre-back William Saliba is expected to leave the club on loan in January and would prefer a move back to his native France, sources told ESPN.
The 19-year-old is yet to make his debut for the Gunners, having been initially loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 campaign following a £27m transfer in July last year. Manager Mikel Arteta then opted not to register Saliba for either Premier League or Europa League matches this season, believing he needs a “transition year” before beginning his career in north London.
Sources told ESPN the prevailing view at Arsenal’s London Colney training base is that Saliba has a lot to improve upon before he is considered ready for the Premier League. Saint-Etienne almost took Saliba on loan for a second time, but the deal collapsed at the 11th hour.
Nice have become the latest club to express an interest, and Saliba is thought to be keen on returning to France. However, the Gunners also previously explored loans to Championship clubs in England, with Norwich, Brentford and Watford among a number of sides linked with a move. There are some staff members who believe he would be better suited to a spell in the lower divisions to best aid his development.
There have been calls from some Arsenal supporters for Arteta to register Saliba for the second half of the season when squads for those competitions can be amended in January. While that has not been entirely ruled out — especially if injuries deplete the squad over the next few weeks — the most likely outcome is Saliba will leave on loan, meaning the wait for his first Arsenal appearance will go on. — James Olley
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Mexico surprised by Alvarez’s USMNT call
When ESPN reported that 18-year-old Efrain Alvarez would be included in the USMNT camp in Florida, the Mexican federation didn’t believe it, sources told ESPN. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to.
The LA Galaxy player had previously committed to the Mexico national team having played in the Under-17 World Cup final for them last year and attended El Tri‘s U20 camp last month. In September, head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said the youngster, who was born in East L.A. to Mexican parents, was firmly with Mexico and would go on to play for El Tri at senior level.
FIFA have amended rules to allow players who have dual nationality to switch eligibility if they have played a maximum of three times for their first national team before the age of 21. The Mexican federation said they will find out why the door to the USMNT has opened for Alvarez, and convince him his future will be brighter if he remains with El Tri.
Mexico has also consistently pushed to bring in Galaxy’s 19-year-old right-back Julian Araujo, who has played for the U.S. at youth level and is in the USMNT camp, while the U.S. team have their eye on Texas-born striker Santiago Munoz, who was an important part of the Mexico U17s World Cup team last year. — Tom Marshall, Omar Flores
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Sickbed to Stamford Bridge: Lloris shines for Spurs
Hugo Lloris had a tough few days before the Premier League clash between Tottenham and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Sunday. The Spurs goalkeeper was ill, which was not caused by COVID-19, but he remained in bed until the day of the game.
With just enough energy to play, he managed to keep a clean sheet and keep his team at the top of the league table, before quickly returning to his bed to rest again and fully recover for the north London derby on Sunday against Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The 2018 World Cup winner was keen to play against Chelsea and did not want to let his team down. He kept his third Premier League clean sheet of the season and was highlighted on Jose Mourinho’s famed Instagram page. — Julien Laurens
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Camavinga a man in demand across Europe
Eduardo Camavinga is one of the most sought after talents in European football with many of Europe’s top clubs monitoring the 18-year-old’s impressive performances at Rennes. There is a considerable amount of hype surrounding the midfielder, with Real Madrid among those keen, and agents across Europe have been lining up to represent him.
Camavinga and dad Celestino have listened to pitches from various contenders after parting ways with one of France’s leading agents, Moussa Sissoko. He counts Ousmane Dembele among his clients and had been key to Camavinga’s development — he even had someone from within his team in Rennes looking after the player on a daily basis.
On Friday, Jonathan Barnett told ESPN that his Stellar Group had won the race. “We’re looking forward to working closely with him and his family,” he said. The Camavingas would not confirm that when approached for comment. Such a prodigious talent is likely to be on the move before too long, with clubs already preparing their bids for next summer. — Alex Kirkland and Julien Laurens
Houston Dynamo’s gender-equal re-brand
When NWSL side Houston Dash visited Monterrey and suffered a defeat against Tigres Femenil in 2019, the home side left a lasting legacy on the club, whose male counterparts are Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer.
— Houston Dynamo FC (@HoustonDynamo) November 17, 2020
Tigres’ philosophy of creating equal importance between the men’s and women’s teams under the Tigres banner left its mark on the travelling party from Texas, and played a part in the MLS side’s re-branding.
“Everything when we were down there at the time, everything that was advertised and pushed was the men and the women,” Dash head coach James Clarkson told ESPN. “The billboards were a big thing, all over the city. Even in the club shop, the advertising between the two and all the female players being as prominent in there as [Andre-Pierre] Gignac and so that was really good.”
Fast forward to 2020 and when a re-branding for MLS franchise Dynamo and NWSL counterparts Dash was discussed, the memories of that trip to Monterrey were still present in the decision-making process.
On the promotional material, the Dynamo and Dash players stand side-by-side, the orange colour schemes are linked and the concept of “two teams, one club” has been pushed … just like at Tigres. — Tom Marshall