Ten Hag coy on Man Utd's links with Neymar
A reported transfer for Neymar would take Manchester United away from their priorities and risk repeating the issue they faced when Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford two years ago. It has been claimed that the Red Devils are one of a number of clubs who have been offered the Brazil superstar – but it is a deal they would do well to avoid.
Just as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to be guiding United in the right direction in 2021 – having finished second behind rivals Manchester City in the Premier League and reaching the Europa League final – the opportunity to sign Ronaldo arose.
On paper, the move seemed too enticing to turn down. Not only were United signing a top-quality player, but they were also preventing a club legend from joining City, where he had previously been linked after making clear that he wanted to leave Juventus.
However, the warning signs were already there. This was a player whose powers were waning and who was ultimately more of a hindrance than a valuable asset. Although Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals in his first season back at United, his presence brought with it a sense of disharmony.
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There were reports that some young players felt obliged to pass to the Portugal icon during matches, such was their desire to keep such a legendary figure on their side. Other claims suggested that there were rifts within the squad, with Ronaldo at the centre.
The striker eventually went public with his unhappiness. Ever since the 38-year-old’s departure, Erik ten Hag has cultivated a more positive atmosphere at Old Trafford, building a squad of young, hungry players who are set to earn Champions League qualification.
The profile of signings United should be targeting should follow that pattern. Ten Hag, who has built his reputation as a top-class coach working with younger players with few big personalities, would be well advised to dodge a transfer for Neymar.
A move for the Paris Saint-Germain star, whose future with the Ligue 1 side looks unclear, would be an expensive marketing exercise with little long-term sporting benefits. The attacker, who turned 31 in February, would be introduced to a squad that already has several similar players.
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Some reports have suggested that Neymar has previously fallen out with PSG coaches, including Thomas Tuchel, although Mauricio Pochettino spoke glowingly of the former Barcelona player. Having dealt with similar issues with Ronaldo, Ten Hag should veto a move and focus on developing the plethora of attacking talent already at United.
“When we have news we will tell you,” Ten Hag said when quizzed on links with Neymar this week, hardly ruling out a transfer. But the Dutchman must continue to build his United team with a core of young players, ready to be moulded into world-class stars.
Ronaldo has already proven that the negative aspects heavily outweigh the positives when United sign a big personality who, on the wrong side of 30, has formerly world-class ability that is now waning. United should avoid a transfer at all cost.
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