So the Mats Hummels rumours cropped up again last week. Along with Ron Vlaar, Hummels has been the most common name mentioned in the game of making ‘five’ that bloggers and journos have been playing since the World Cup Final ended and the transfer window closed. Jamie Jackson, the Manchester correspondent for the Guardian, is the latest to espouse the Hummels rumours, citing a January switch, so it’s worth taking a look again now and seeing where things stand compared to the summer.
Firstly we need to look at the money, which is likely to leave little change from €40 million. In the past that might have looked out of the question, after the summer splurge though there is no doubt we’ll put that money up if Louis Van Gaal wants it. Previously it seemed that Dortmund told us where to go. If that’s true then criticising Van Gaal for not strengthening the defence sufficiently seems patently ridiculous. Throwing money at any old centre back in the transfer window gets you Eliaquim Mangala if you’re not careful, and nobody wants that! Back in the summer, in the afterglow of Germany’s World Cup win, Dortmund were acting from a position of strength having finished a comfortable second in the Bundesliga last season and pushed Real Madrid all the way in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
However, Dortmund these days are not the beast they were, except bizarrely in the Champions League, although that might say more about Arsenal and the rest of their group than it does about them. In the Bundesliga Dortmund are in the bottom three, yes that’s right the relegation zone, with fewer points from 12 league games than they have from four games in Group D. They have never been able to successfully combine European and domestic football and the inexorable flow of players away has contributed to that.
Whether or not this helps the cause of a potential Hummels suitor is unclear. Jurgen Klopp’s future is uncertain and Hummel’s has barely played due to injury – injury prone defenders eh? When he has been available Borussia have won only once, against Galatasary, and not at all in the Bundesliga. Klopp may decide Hummels must stay until the summer as Champions League victory may be their only route back in given their league form. Alternatively Klopp may be fired and the new manager may sell Hummels in order to fund a rebuild that sees them climb back up the table. Hummels only has two years left on his contract after the end of this season. To get a premium price for him the sale would need to take place sooner rather than later.
So availability and potential willingness of Dortmund to sell in January seem to both be positive and the money is undeniably available. The question then moves on from could we buy Hummels to should we? For whatever reason United managers have steered clear of signing German players, not consciously I’m sure, but the facts are there for all to see. We’re comparing apples to oranges here to an extent but Shinji Kagawa’s struggles along with those latterly of Mesut Özil may demonstrate that players from the Bundesliga struggle in the English game. On top of that Hummels has not been fit for the bulk of the season and when he has he has either been out of form or unable to turn things around on his own. Class should will out of course but even if he took to the Premier League like a duck to water, as he might well do, the injury situation is what put us off Vidal and could be a real frightener here.
Given our problems lately, getting out of the last four games with seven points and only three goals conceded is pretty special and occupying a top four place is quite a big deal right now. Given Van Gaal’s reputation for promoting young players I for one would like Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair to stick around for longer in the first team, possibly marshalled by A N Other as and when they are available. Even United will be affected by Financial Fair Play soon and a €40 million outlay may prevent other signings further down the road. The bottom line is that we already have a squad that should sleepwalk into the top four. Maybe, instead of breaking the bank, we should give ourselves the chance to stumble upon a talented, quick, young and skilful centre back pairing that, fingers crossed, might serve us for years to come instead.