It’s still November, but according to the media reports, Manchester United and Jose Mourinho have already set their January transfer targets. One of them as claimed by the media is the Albanian international Elseid Hysaj, a natural full back who is seen as the solution of the full back problems at United. His name might not sound familiar and maybe some United fans may have never heard of him. The defender is currently at Serie A giants, Napoli. Hysaj featured in this summer’s UEFA Euro 2016. He was considered before the tournament as one of the best young talents around.
What mostly attracted those who are interested in him is the way he handled the situation against Switzerland, when Albanian captain Lorik Cana was sent off. He was pretty comfortable playing as a centre-back, three at the back, until he was settled at right back again by the end of first half. Yet, his most significant game was against France, handling the French stars well, including United forward Anthony Martial. The reports come from a local Italian paper called Il Mattino, which took reports from the UK, albeit wrongly. Il Mattino discussed the situation of the defence at Napoli and how they need a new defender, Matteo Darmian being in Napoli’s sights, which could see United benefit from this situation and get Hysaj.
However, the deal stated to be around £25 million (valued by United) is unlikely to happen with the Albanian defender happy in Italy. This could be easily said with his recent five-year contract renewal. In football, never say never as impossible transfers have happened in the past. Manchester United on the other side may be looking for a full back that has capacities to play on both the left and right side, since as proven in the game against Arsenal on Saturday, Valencia is the best option United have at right back, not just being great on the pitch, but even a showing true class, returning from injury early.
Matteo Darmian and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are two other options, but with the Italian mostly playing on the left, as he has done against Swansea City and now Arsenal, also not settling well, he literally is no guarantee for Mourinho. Fosu-Mensah isn’t likely to feature in that position as he is more of defensive midfielder and has been played in that position by Mourinho when he featured in the UEFA Europa League.
But who is Elseid Hysaj? Would he fit in a Jose Mourinho Manchester United team? Let’s get to know him better.
Elseid Hysaj, 22, grew up in the city of Shkodra, Albania and started playing at youth level for his local side, Vllaznia. Anyway, he joined Empoli’s Academy in 2009 where he learned his craft at a professional level and got his first team call in 2011. His great performances immediately attracted other Italian sides and Napoli finally managed to sign him in 2015. Hysaj was impressive for Napoli last season, being solid on the right back, offering pace on the wing. His immediate impact with the Italian side is notable as he started 37 games in Serie A during the 2015/16 season.
Hysaj loves to play with quick and short passes, which Mourinho loves. However, something that speaks against him is his crossing ability. For many United supporters, that is key when looking for a defender of a high calibre, especially at full back. He may win the battle with Darmian to start as Hysaj, differently from the Italian has the concentration and has high a discipline level, doing what he has been asked to do. He is able to clear the ball quickly, avoiding interceptions in dangerous zones. My only worry when it comes to Hysaj, as stated before, are his passing abilities. United have suffered in the recent years in finding a good full back that delivers crosses inside the box, and this is Hysaj’s weakest point.
This season Hysaj has played in 10 games, showing his abilities, having an overall rating of 6.74, according to WhoScored. The strange thing about this story is that the English papers don’t rely on the reports by Il Mattino, mostly focusing on the right back issues rather than in the story that cannot easily be true. Another thing that grows the speculation is a report on the 22nd October by an Albanian site saying that Hysaj was on the radar of Manchester United. Yet, they were only based on poor rumours coming from Italy, nearly two months after his contract renewal.
However, from all this, the player’s agent reacted by say saying that if the right offer comes, then they’ll think about it. The big question is: Is he worth it? Well, Napoli won’t let him go until they get the right offer that could be around £50 million. A bit overpriced in my opinion considering his age. For that price United could get a player like Aymeric Laporte that would help in the centre of defence, an area needing attention at this moment in time. If United really want him, then January isn’t the right time for this type of deal. United already have Darmian, he might need time under Mourinho to hit his full potential, something he did show whilst playing in Italy. United fans are tired of signing the wrong players, as they’ve seen the club spent millions on players considered as flops, this could well be the same story.