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Amad Diallo. Talented? Yes. But let’s be careful hyping him up too much.

A fresh start. A chance for everyone to leave behind a year where a pandemic swept the World and everything was put on hold. As the clocks hit 12 and the 1st of January hit us, Manchester United fans were super excited. 

Not about a new year. Oh no. 

About the arrival some have called a ‘generational talent’. Enter Amad Diallo. 

The transfer is not expected to be completed for a few days. A work permit needs to be officially requested but with Diallo receiving an Italian passport (Sky Sports) it shouldn’t prevent the move. 

However, this isn’t an article designed to over hype the 18-year-old. Nor is it one to criticise. It is merely a cautionary article and let me show you why.

Price Tag

£37.2 million. It is a lot of money. It’s similar to how much Donny van de Beek cost. It’s more than Alex Telles was. He must be good right? Well, in youth football, yes. He was a star, but he’s only made five senior appearances for Atalanta, all off the bench. It’s a footballing tale as old as time. In any era, a player with a big price tag will have the same question posed. Can he handle it? 

We don’t really have any proof that he can. Unfortunately for Diallo, he may have fallen foul of work permit rules. As explained by former AC Milan legend Giovanni Galli (Football Italia), “The club need to have valid reasons to take him to the United Kingdom. One reason is that the player is coming from a top team and with Atalanta that have been playing international competitions over the last few years, there are no problems to prove it. The second reason is the price tag. A €40 million signing means he is an important investment for the club. If the cost would be €1 or €2 million (£1-2 million) it may have been more difficult to get the work permit. That being said, €40m (£37.2m) is still a lot of money.”

Frustrations with work permit rules may see a lot more big money young signings, especially with Brexit also coming into force as 2021 begins. Of course, that isn’t Diallo’s fault. Unfortunately though, there will be no asterisk next to his fee saying, ‘yes it was a lot of money, but work permit issues meant it cost a lot more’. Nor will rival fans or pundits allow it to be an excuse. Remember Bebe. He only cost £7 million and is often considered to be one of the worst signings in Premier League history. Even Gabriel Obertan. £3 million. Didn’t happen at United, although in fairness to him, he managed to forge a few years in England with Newcastle and Wigan. 

Maybe a more apt comparison would be Memphis Depay. Now there is a caveat to this comparison. Depay was 21 years old, was already a first teamer at PSV, had top scored in the Eredivisie in a title winning season and had been capped by the Netherlands. All that being said, Depay came at a time where United had suffered two poor seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson had retired. He cost £31 million, not to dissimilar to Diallo and arrived with much fanfare, as has Diallo. However, as we all know, it did not work out. He struggled to adapt to the Premier League in his first season and when Jose Mourinho came in, it was clear he was not fancied by the new manager. He was sold in January to Lyon where he has gone on to be a top player developing into Lyon’s talisman. His move to Manchester United had come too soon. It wasn’t just the fee, or the fan fare. It was the step up, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world and by his own admission, he only had himself to blame.

Diallo comes to United without the first team experience, but will have to deal with the price tag and the fan fare at being at a club like United, nonetheless.

Lack of first team football 

As touched upon earlier, Diallo has had very little first team football. Atalanta have afforded him just 59 minutes with all appearances coming off the bench. Last season he bagged his first goal and maybe some would have expected far more minutes as we came into the new season. There has been one big difference this season, though. From 14 matchdays this season, Diallo has been on the bench 10 times. Training and being around any first team at a young age will aid his development. Being in a team that is so free flowing will also help. Atalanta scored 98 goals last season. Yes, 98. They’ve only scored 28 goals so far this season, but only three teams in Serie A have more. Gian Piero Gasperini will have been a great coach to learn from. When interviewed by The Guardian last season he gave an insight into his philosophy. 

“To give you an idea I will use a Chinese proverb from 500 BC [from the Art of War]: ‘Defending makes you invincible, but if you want to win, you must attack.’ This sums up the spirit and mentality I want my team to have. But there’s something else that is important too: the identity you create in a team must always be reinforced. You must grow and improve, day by day, because if you do not improve, you are done. Those who stop, they have lost. 

During training, my players need to struggle; those who aren’t used to working hard scare me. But from the struggle, victories are born. If you don’t run in training then you don’t run during the game. Then, of course it is important to have fun in training too because from that comes the style of play and the quality.”

The fact that Diallo will have been around Gasperini a lot during the last year and a half is a positive. You sense that if Diallo didn’t work hard in training, he wouldn’t have got onto the bench this season. Being a winger may have also prevented further first team minutes. Atalanta play five at the back, with wing-backs and attacking midfielders, so it will have been hard for Gasperini to give him too many minutes without changing his system. 

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains the same. Diallo has not played many first team minutes and it would be a huge ask to come to Old Trafford and walk straight into the first team squad.

Manchester United are in a title race

However much some United fans and pundits want to downplay it, United are (at the moment) in a title race. Level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League with goal difference separating them, although United have a game in hand heading into the second half of the season. That is being in a title race. 

Transfers are not often made in January, with fees often inflated. Clubs are usually in desperation mode if signings are made half-way through the season, whether it a team battling relegation and need reinforcements, or as it was last season with United, a top team struggling and need a fix quickly. This time last year, Bruno Fernandes signed for United. Whilst £47 million may have been seen as an expensive signing, it now looks to be an absolute steal and one of United’s best signings in many windows. However, that type of signing being that successful is very much the exception rather than the rule. United have been rumoured to make signings this January. Whether any signings can be made to push on in the title race remains to be seen. Players such as Max Aarons from Norwich (The Sun) and Moises Caicedo from Independiente (Daily Mail) have been heavily linked. However, they are players who are believed to be able to come into the squad and do a job now. 

Realistically, are United going to give time to Diallo in important Premier League games? No. Fa Cup if they drew a lower league side? Maybe. Europe League? Much better chance. Nonetheless, it is far more likely that Diallo will follow the Facundo Pellistri route.

The Facundo Pellistri Model 

On the same day that United announced that Diallo would be joining in January, they also announced another young signing. Another winger in fact. Uruguayan, Facundo Pellistri. 

It might be wise for us to use Pellistri as a model for Diallo. Both signings were announced on the same day, however, Pellistri made the move immediately to United on the 5 October 2020 for a far modest £10 million (Daily Mail). He was recommended by former United striker, Diego Forlan and so far, he has managed to make it onto two Champions League benches but has begun his United career in the under 23’s.

After a steady start, he has started to impress and over the Christmas break he trained with the first team squad (Daily Mail) so that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could take a look at him. With the FA Cup game against Watford looming in the middle of a tough run of games, United may be about to catch a first glimpse of the youngster in the senior team. That has taken five months to materialise. Pellistri had already made 37 senior appearances from Penarol, so he has that over Diallo as well. 

Even though Pellistri joined in October, he has still only made eight under 23 appearances. He has three goals and an assist in that time but making the step up to the first team will see a far bigger increase in intensity. Despite Diallo frequenting the bench so often this season, 35 minutes of football is all he has seen. He will need minutes to get up to full match sharpness. Again, this isn’t going to happen in the first team. He will need a few months in the under 23’s to gain fitness as well as to acclimatise himself to Manchester, just like his fellow winger has. 

Wing rivals at the club already

As I was talking about Pellistri, it struck me that whilst United will likely follow his pathway into the club, they will be rivals for the same positions. Then it struck me even more that whilst Pellistri and Diallo have cost a combined £47 million, there are other wingers already at the club fighting for the same positions. 

Tahith Chong has probably been forgotten about due to these signings, but the Dutchmen featured in the first team last season and his loan move to Werder Bremen was anticipated to kickstart his career and ready him for more first team action on his return. He started with a goal in a cup game on his debut but having to self-isolate after coming into contact with a teammate with COVID hasn’t helped him settle. He has been afforded just three starts and eight substitute appearances but has yet to contribute a goal or assist in those game. The Werder Bremen head of football, Clemens Fritz, has urged for patience (Manchester Evening News) with Chong, so United will be hoping an improved second half of the season will see him ready for the first team next season. They are obviously high on him after he signed a contract extension last season. 

Shola Shoretire is an interesting proposition. The club are very high on him and rightly so. At just 15 years of age, he made his debut for the under 18’s. The season after he made 18 appearances and this season, he has already made the jump to the under 23’s. He is still one month short of his 17th birthday. In ten appearances, he has made nine starts, highlighting his importance to the side already. Neil Wood, the under 23 manager, recently raved about him. If he continues his rate of progression, the first team won’t be too far away.

Then there is Anthony Elanga, who has impressed regularly for the under 23’s after his promotion from the under 18’s. Still only 18 himself, he scored seven goals and laid on three assists for the under 18’s last season and in only nine games. 11 league games have seen four goals and two assists for the under 23’s as well as scoring two goals and getting an assist in the Papa John’s Trophy. Playing well against senior players, albeit in lower leagues, suggests that Elanga has something about him as does the 60-yard solo goal he scored a few weeks back. Gary Neville recently called him a “nightmare to play against” and also likened him to Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. High praise indeed. 

These three players, along with Pellistri, show that Amad Diallo, despite the price tag, won’t find it that easy to make the under 23 side, let alone the first team. Of course, the issues I’ve mentioned before may not mean anything.

Diallo is likely to play under 23 football before the first team. however, he might rip that league up. Solskjaer may believe that he’s that extra piece that can fire United to a league title. He might take to the Premier League like a duck to water. He has been described as a generational talent after all. So, why not? 

Written by Huw Rawlings

Facundo Pellistri would like to return to Penarol ‘one day’; that is only inevitable with the player respecting his former club

Manchester United confirmed the signing of 18-year-old Facundo Pellistri on deadline day along with the signings of Alex Telles from FC Porto, free agent Edinson Cavani and a deal to sign Amad Diallo (Traore) from Atalanta was also announced ahead of its completion during the January transfer window. United had already signed Donny van de Beek from Ajax earlier in the summer transfer window. The flurry of late signings seems to have upset many people whether they be supporters of the club, opposition supporters and even the media. The Sun has reported that Pellistri is already working on an exit from the club. Sensationalism at its worst.

The 18-year-old arrived in Manchester on Friday but the likelihood is that he will need to self isolate before he can train with his new teammates or even play for United, so there will be a bit of a wait, unless there is something that would allow him to avoid the isolation period, which might be doubtful. The player had an interview with television station Telemundo in Uruguay in which he spoke about many things from his move to United and how grateful he was to play for Penarol, even holding the door open for a move back to the club ‘one day’, which is where The Sun has decided to manipulate that by suggesting the player is trying to leave already. He said:

“It is incredible that just over a year ago I made my debut in first team. It was unimaginable and to play in the first division with Penarol and now to play for Manchester United, I would never have dreamed of it and it is something very emotional for me and my family.

“There was a lot of talk about the two transfers and luckily they tried to leave me out as much as possible so I would to go crazy. First came Lyon and then Manchester United and I am very happy with the opportunity.

“It’s a league that I always watch with my parents, seeing the great teams and you can’t imagine going to play there. Now that I have the chance to play there, I’m eager to start new adventure and see how the rhythm is and if it is as intense as they say.

“It is the biggest club, I’ve come through the youth system, I was at the club for more than seven years, I lived everything, many experiences, very nice things like debuting at the Campeon del Siglo stadium [Penarol’s home stadium] among others.

“It was a dream and a pleasure to play for the team. I am leaving with a lot of desire to return one day.”

During the 2019 season at Penarol, Pellistri made a total of 20 appearances, scoring one goal and two assists at youth level, showing his skills and determination to be a star for the club. The following season (2020), the 18-year-old would make his debut for the first team, making five appearances, scoring one goal and one assist in the Libertadores, also making a further 12 appearances, scoring no goal but one assist at youth level. The player is a raw talent, just like Diallo, who will arrive at the club in January. It is a positive thing that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has decided to sign two wingers for the club, which give sufficient rotation options in the squad.

Both players might be young and inexperienced but there will be a belief that one of them, or even both could have a career at United in the vein of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a raw talent when he arrived at United, got involved right away in the first team and free as a player, progressing his talent along the way and becoming a world star, winning Premier League titles, cup competitions and more importantly the UEFA Champions League which also paved the way for him to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time in 2008. It is something that we can only hope for now, seeing more as the months progress. Cavani, a fellow Uruguayan recently spoke to the official Manchester United website about Pellistri, saying:

“Pellistri is a young lad and I really love the way he plays the game. He’s the typical South American footballer who has that mischievous nature to his game, and the way he lives his football is a bit like, as we say in Uruguay, being on el campito, as we call it, a makeshift pitch where you have a kickabout for fun with your mates or whoever.

“He’s a youngster who has a lot to learn but who has a lot to offer too. He’s already shown what he can do at Peñarol, in the games where he’s featured. I’ve liked him from the moment he made his first-team debut at Peñarol, I liked him a lot. He’s coming here to the club, without a doubt determined to learn and mature as a player, but also to make a good contribution here himself.

“Learning his trade here is also going to be a great experience for him. So it’s going to be good meeting up with him and travelling together on this journey in this new chapter for us both.”

Written by John Walker

Manchester United sign 18-year-old winger Facundo Pellistri from Penarol – the second Uruguayan to sign for the club today

Manchester United have confirmed the signing of 18-year-old Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri from Penarol. The player has signed a five-year contract at the Old Trafford club with the option for a further year to be added. United were linked to the player in July 2020 with Chelsea also being credited with an interest just days later. It was a bit of a busy transfer deadline day for United with the club confirming Alex Telles, Edinson Cavani, 16-year-old Willy Kambwala from Sochaux, also confirming a deal with Atalanta to sign 18-year-old Amad Diallo (Traore) in January 2021.

This season, playing for Penarol in the Primera División Apertura and the Libertadores, Pellistri has made just five appearances, scoring one goal and one assist at first team level. During his time at Penarol, the 18-year-old has played 37 times, scoring two goals and four assists, so has a way to go during his career. Pellistri is considered as a hot prospect in Uruguay and his club would have liked to keep him the the remainder of the season in South America but United’s insistence that they get the deal done now seemed to have changed that. The player had his medical earlier today and suggestions on Twitter stated that everything was alright with it.

Speaking to the official Manchester United website about his transfer, Pellistri said:

“To join a club with the history of Manchester United is a dream come true. I have learnt a lot at Penarol and I would like to thank them for everything they have done for me. To have the confidence of the manager is an amazing feeling and I know that working with him will be perfect for my development.

“I am coming into a squad full of great players who I will learn from every day. Everyone knows that Manchester United is a club that gives young players an opportunity and I am ready to work hard every day to earn those chances and prove myself in England.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy that he has signed three more players for his squad before the closure of the transfer window but has missed out on his number one target, Jadon Sancho. It is expected that Pellistri could be added straight to United’s first team, also some think he might be playing for the U23s first of all. I guess we will have to wait and see. The 18-year-old is considered as a raw talent, much like Cristiano Ronaldo was 17 years ago and there will be hopes that he could step into the footsteps of the Portuguese winger in the future. His addition, alongside Amad Diallo, who will sign in January will be interesting to see.

Solskjaer, speaking about his latest arrival to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Our scouts have followed Facundo for a long time and we believe that he will be a real talent for the long term. Whilst we understand it will take time for him to adapt to the English game, he is capable of having an impact with his pace and ability to beat his opponent.

“Facundo has the perfect platform at Manchester United to develop and he has all of the technical qualities and the right mentality required to become a top player here. We are all looking forward to working with him to fulfil his potential over the coming years.”

United will not be back in action until the 17 October when they face Newcastle United at St James’ Park in the Premier League, which will be their first chance to bounce back from the 6-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Sunday, the second home league match of the season and the second one that United have lost. The likes of Telles, Cavani and Pellistri will add some depth to Solskjaer’s squad with the hope that all three players will add something moving forward. As Solskjaer has said, Telles is an experienced fullback, Cavani is a goalscorer and Pellistri’s pace and ability will add something to the team. There might be some excitement coming.

Written by John Walker

Chelsea join the hunt for Penarol wonderkid Facundo Pellistri, Manchester United’s interest reported in the past week

Premier League club Chelsea have apparently joined in the hunt to sign Penarol wonderkid Facundo Pellistri. It is, however, stated that the London club will have a lot of other European clubs to contest in order to win the race to sign the 18-year-old winger. Manchester United’s interest was reported over the past week or so with the club seeking signings.

Along with United, Manchester City, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Feel Madrid hold interest in the Uruguayan. United may have an advantage though being that former striker, Diego Forlan is the Penarol manager, however, he did not only play for United so may help another former club sign the player.

Italian news site Calcio Mercato has reported that Juventus seem to be leading the race for the teenager this summer but Chelsea have emerged as the apparent ‘dark horses’ to sign the young prospect. It is stated that Frank Lampard’s side have shown ‘concrete interest’ in Pellistri that will put them on a ‘collision course’ with Manchester City.

Pellistri is vastly becoming a hot prospect in South America after starring in his homeland, Uruguay, on the wing. He has not yet been capped for his country but he holds a Spanish passport and speaks English fluently. His current contract will last until the summer of 2022 and he has a £10million release clause inserted in it.

It has been suggested by The Athletic that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will ask his former teammate, Forlan, for advice on the 18-year-old, presumably thread of the summer transfer window opening later this summer. United, of course, will need to get through the season first, facing Southampton in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Monday.

Solskjaer will be seeking to add some quality to his squad this summer with the club interested in signing Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, Jack Grealish of Aston Villa, amongst other names that continually seem to be linked to the Old Trafford club. One thing is for sure though, United do need to strengthen this summer in order to take on the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City to challenge for the Premier League title.

Manchester United eye swoop for Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri trained by Diego Forlan – reports

Manchester United are apparently plotting a transfer swoop for Penarol’s Uruguayan teenage star Facundo Pellistri, according to reports. The 18-year-old is vastly becoming a hot prospect in South America, starring in Uruguay on the wing, which is a position that United need to concentrate on signing a player for this summer.

Former United striker, Diego Forlan is the manager of boyhood club Penarol and has been since December 2019. It has been suggested by The Athletic that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will speak to his former teammate for advice on the 18-year-old ahead of launching a potential swoop for the teenager as soon as the transfer window opens this summer.

It is reported that Penarol know that they will find it hard to keep hold of Pellistri this summer and he has a £10 million release clause as part of his contract. It is also stated that Real Madrid and Manchester City could increase the competition for the player with both clubs recently having an eye for the player. United could be onto something here.

Pellistri has not yet made his international debut for his country but the player holds a Spanish passport and speaks English which would ensure a smooth transition to Europe, should that opportunity arise this summer or beyond. His current contract with Penarol will expire in the summer of 2022 after signing a contract extension back in February 2020.

The player is said to be happy at Penarol but if Solskjaer received a glowing report on the player and the trajectory of his career, which will need to be on the up to end up playing for a club such as United, he could be on the way to pastures new. Solskjaer, speaking about new signings, seemingly playing down big signings, recently said:

“You have a certain DNA and identity when you play for Man United or work for Man United, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the canteen or laundry or in admin or on the pitch, you’ve got to be a certain type of character for me.

“I’m very old school in my values. I’m not going to rant and rave. I’d rather open the door or close the door. Either in or out.

“Players who want to sign if they don’t feel right as a person you close the door, players who are inside who don’t feel right and don’t want to contribute to the team ethos and have the betterment of the team at heart then you open the door and let them leave.

“It’s a constant process. Whatever you do every day, that will decide if you’re going to be part of Man United or not.

“I hope and believe I will always stay true to my principles and values of that.”

This season, playing for Penarol in the Primera División Apertura and the Libertadoresm Pellistri has made just five appearances and is yet to score a single goal, already assisting once. During his time at Penarol, the 18-year-old has played 25 times, scoring one goal and three assists, so has a way to go during his career. United could do worse this summer and there is an unknown factor in signing players like Pellistri, which is exciting. Perhaps Solskjaer might conduct some interesting business.

copyright: JW