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Manchester United complete Amad Diallo signing with the player hugely ambitious to succeed at the club

Manchester United have confirmed the signing of 18-year-old Amad Diallo who has joined the Old Trafford club from Italian side Atalanta on a deal that would see the teenager remain at the club until the summer of 2025, with the option of a further year to be added, as is the case with all new signings and contract extensions post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The Ivorian winger was announced as a future deal back on October after United signed Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles and Facundo Pellistri during the delayed summer transfer window of 2020, which at the time was subject to a medical, work permit and personal terms being agreed.

United have made an application for Diallo’s visa, which has yet to be issued and once it has, the player will fly to Manchester, which will probably be in the next week or so. It is unlikely that he will be cleared to face Watford in the Emirates FA Cup this weekend, or Burnley in the Premier League one Tuesday evening. I would imagine that supporters of the club who will be eager to see what he can do, will be speculating which matches he could play in with Liverpool also on the horizon. It is entirely possible that Diallo may start his career at the Old Trafford club playing U23 football unless less pressure like Pellistri has this season.

This season, Diallo has made two first team appearances for Atalanta, playing 13 minutes in the 2-0 Serie A defeat to Hellas Verona on the 28 November 2020 and 22 minutes in the 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw with FC Midtjylland. He neither score nor assisted in any of those matches but did look like a lively playing on the right-wing, with has been a problem area for United for a number of years now. With the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed both Pellistri, 19 and Diallo, 18, for the foreseeable future, the right-wing position could be sorted being that Mason Greenwood has also featured in that position regularly.

Atalanta initially wanted to keep the player on loan for the remainder of the season, but that only came out in the media over the last week or so and it was something that was not mentioned in the original deal which was announced in October. United stood firm on the deal which would see the player move to Manchester this month, during the January transfer window. The player started the process earlier this week which seems to be coming to a close. United manager, Solskjaer spoke to the official Manchester United website about his new signing, stating that it will take time for the Ivorian to adapt to his squad, saying:

“As a club, we have followed Amad for a number of years and having watched him myself, I believe he is one of the most exciting young prospects in the game.

“Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here.

“It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition. He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come.”

Diallo is a raw talent in the game but seems to have a similar ability to that of Cristiano Ronaldo when he was the same age, being confident of what he can do on the pitch and having that dream of reaching the same dizzy heights in the world of football. United under Solskjaer will be a good place for the 18-year-old to take his biggest chance in the world of football after being used sparingly by Atalanta this season, which also seems strange in the respect that the club wanted to keep him on loan for the remainder of the season after only playing a total of 25 first team minutes this season.

Diallo spoke to the official Manchester United website about his new club, talking about waiting since the summer to start the process of signing for the English club, stating that it is a dream come true to complete his move to the Old Trafford club. He also stated that he is hugely ambitious, which is a good sign as ambition and capability will be needed to succeed at United and his capability seems to be just fine, or at least will be when he has settled into the club. It might not be a big transition for him with Italian football not too dissimilar to the English game. Diallo stated:

“After waiting since the summer, it is finally a dream come true to complete my move to Manchester United. I am hugely ambitious and there is so much that I want to achieve in the game; when I spoke to the manager I knew that I had joined the perfect club.

“This is a really exciting squad with so many great players, I can promise that I will work hard every day to learn from them and give everything to develop my game. The coaches have been fantastic since I signed, we have been in touch regularly and they have already given me a lot of great advice.

“I have had time to prepare for this move, both physically and mentally, and I have worked really hard to be ready to make the step up to this amazing club.”

Diallo will get a lot of attention in England. The fact he will be playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world of football will also lay him open for extra criticism, which seems to be the case from pundits, presenters and supposed supporters of the club. Diallo will need to be tough skinned with some of the criticism which might find him if he does not perform to the best of his abilities from the very start as some of the so-called supporters of the club are quick to judge, as has been the case with Daniel James, who started on a flier in his first season at the club and then started to stutter massively. Hopefully, it will be different for Diallo.

Written by John Walker

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

Crazy negotiations led to Manchester United agreeing to sign Amad Diallo, says Atalanta president

On deadline day of the summer transfer window, Manchester United announced a deal that would see them sign 18-year-old Amad Diallo Traore from Italian side Atalanta during the January transfer window with the player remaining as an Atalanta player until then. Last week, the player had a medical to facilitate the move, which he reportedly passed, something that United will be happy about and will reinforce the fact the club has gone back to the approach of signing young players with raw talent as opposed to signing players who have grown in stature at other clubs, being sold for very high transfer fees.

Atalanta president Antonio Percassi has revealed that Diallo had been on the radar of the Old Trafford club for almost 12 months, showing that this was not a panic buy, but a move that had some thought applied to it, which is not something that could be said regarding the clubs transfer business going back to before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the manager of the club after the sacking of Jose Mourinho. United could pay as much as £37 million for the teenager and if that happens, it would mean that he would have been a success at the Old Trafford club. United desperately needed a right-winger at the club, in January, two of them would have been signed.

Atalanta hail the teenager as ‘one of the most exciting prospects in Italian football’ which shows signs of United signing a talent that could thrive at the club. At one stage, it seemed that the player was leaving the club for Parma, who believed that they were first in line to sign the player, then the move to United materialised and the rest seems to be history. When the signing goes through, Facundo Pellistri, who was also signed on deadline day, arriving in Manchester on Friday, will have had a few months to see himself tested in the first team for the club. Diallo will arrive in January looking to cement himself into the first team too, which will be interesting.

United seem to have done some good business this summer with the signing of Donny van de Beek from Ajax, also signing Pellistri from Penarol, Alex Telles from FC Porto and free agent Edinson Cavani. The majority of the new signings arrived on deadline day, which should never have been the case but this transfer window was different to those in the past, especially with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic still causing problems going forward, specifically financial problems with supporters still being kept out of stadiums. Percassi spoke to Italian publication L’Eco di Bergamo, which was then translated by Sport Witness, saying:

“The negotiation with Manchester lasted almost a year. The details and the scenarios are crazy. Meeting after meeting we learned unimaginable things.

“This leads to the growth of the club and enriches the work of everyone, from the general manager, Umberto Marino, to the entire staff.

“A few days after the Youth League game against Manchester City, the other Manchester contacted us.

“They had followed him, the real negotiation started. We went twice to England. The text of the final agreement is a contractual masterpiece.”

During the 2020/21 season, Diallo has not yet featured for his club but has been on the bench in all three matches played so far with the club sitting at the top of the Serie A table with victories over Torino (4-2), Lazio (4-1) and Cagliari (5-2). Last season, Diallo made three appearances for the first team, scoring one goal, making a further 24 appearances, scoring seven goals and 11 assists at youth level, showing his ability in the game. Diallo could well be the player with raw talent that needs to be given the chance to grow and could have a positive tale about his career like that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who came to the club as an 18-year-old and made strides in world football.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United to sign Amad Traore from Atalanta in January; €30 million plus add-ons

Manchester United have reportedly agreed a deal to sign 18-year-old Ivory Coast winger Amad Traore from Atlanta. However, the deal will not be concluded until January with the player remaining in Italy for the remainder of 2020. It was expected that the teenager would move to Parma this summer as there had been agreement between the two clubs for the past three weeks. Fabrizio Romano has stated that the delay in the move will be because of work permit and passport issues, that could be solved before January comes, paving the way for the transfer then. He seems to be a good talent and come highly rated my man in Italy.

Traore was linked to United last month as an option should the pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho become unlikely, which has been the case for a number of weeks now with the ITKs on Twitter seemingly keeping the transfer alive when in actual fact, it seems to have been dead since August. Personally, I would prefer United to go back to the business that they used to conclude, rather than aiming to bring in players with high transfer fees all of the time. Some modern-day supporters demand that and it does not always work; Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez etc. With raw talent and hunger to achieve, it has a better chance of success.

Back in August 2003, in the same summer in which David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, a relatively unknown Portuguese winger was signed and within a few years, he was a worldwide name and well on the way to becoming the world’s best player at the time. That sort of signing is the type that gives me hope that United will find the right path to success once again. Oh and I’m not saying that Traore is destined to be the next Ronaldo here, so don’t confuse my words. Raw talent, belief, hard work and hunger for success are the key ingredients for players seeking to make waves in worldwide football.

Traore mainly plays as a right-winger but can also play on the left and through the middle in the three positions behind the striker. Last season, Traore made three appearances for Atalanta in the Serie A, scoring one goal; playing 13 minutes against Udinese in a 7-1 victory in the right-wing position – scoring one goal, then featuring in the attacking midfield role (in the middle) against both Juventus (five minutes) in a 3-1 defeat and Parma (six minutes) in a 5-0 victory. At youth level, Traore made 24 appearances, scoring seven goals and 11 assists. This season, Traore is yet to feature for Atalanta but was on the bench against Torino, Lazio and Cagliari.

This could well become good business for United this summer, getting a deal across the line for January and allowing the player to continue in Italy at this moment in time, with the world watching him because of his impending move to United. He will be scrutinised by journalists, United supporters and opposition supporters and every mistake will be mocked and then anything special he does will be adored. It would have been better to have him arrive in Manchester now and get ready for his new career but work permit and passport issues will complicate matters today with little time for such problems.

I am sure the world will be watching Traore when he actually gets on the pitch for Atalanta this season, who are currently leading in the Serie A table after beating Torino 4-2, Lazio 4-1 and Cagliari 5-2 in the three matches they have played so far this season. The future looks good for Traore and there will be hope and enthusiasm that he will be able to achieve for the Old Trafford club when he eventually makes his move to the Premier League. United may need proven talent at the club, but raw talent is a good option too. I am sure the player will be look forward to joining the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes.

Written by John Walker

Amad Traore could be the winger Manchester United needs this summer – young, hungry and full of desire

Manchester United are reportedly eyeing a move for Atalanta winger Amad Traore as their pursuit for Jadon Sancho seems to have stalled at the point whereby the club were told the price for the player, which is something the club would not be paying, seemingly using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for the deal not happening, this summer at least. The 18-year-old Ivorian is seen as a big prospect in Italy and was part of Atalanta’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final squad when they player Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season.

On Wednesday, the Manchester Evening News reported that United had contacted the Italian club regarding Traore, as other clubs around Europa had become interested in the player this summer. The report suggested that the 18-year-old was not considered as the main alternative for Sancho this summer, but will been the list. He played 24 minutes in the Serie A last season and had a debut to be proud of, age 17 years and 109 days, scoring in the 7-1 victory over Udinese.

After making his debut, Traore played two more times for his club at senior level. In total, during the 2019/20 season, the 18-year-old made a total of 27 appearances, scoring eight goals and 11 assists, but only played three times for the first team, scoring one goal. It is suggested that Manchester City, Arsenal and Juventus hold interest in the player and for that reason, it might benefit United if they were to get in early and try to formulate a deal for the teenager. However, doing something early seems so alien to United right now. They will probably leave it United there is a battle for the player.

United really need proven quality in their squad this summer, which was why Sancho was such a good player to earmark for the club, however, it seems so like United to baulk at the asking price, which would have been known to them months ahead of the summer transfer window opening, even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. United have no excuses to continue plodding through the summer, trying to get their own way, when paying the £108 million requested for Sancho is the only way.

In the summer of 2003, United signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Clube de Portugal and at the time, the 18-year-old had raw talent. For years now, United have targeted world class players who have ben developed at other club who would sell for massive fees. United should be seeking to develop a world class player themselves, like they did with Ronaldo. Traore might not become a world star like Ronaldo, but he United signed him, gave him first team minutes and allowed him to develop, it might actually work for them. Too many people seem to want instant success.

United have always taken the past of allowing youth to develop, make the first team and prove themselves. I am not just talking about the Class of 1992 here as it goes back to the days of Sir Matt Busby. Granted, between Busby retiring and Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club, there was a period when the youth mantra was not so obvious but Ferguson brought that back to the club and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to do the same. Traore could be a player that will not cost the world, but could be worth his weight in gold in a few years time, if allowed to develop around players who have hunger, desire and determination.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United in ‘advanced talks’ with Lille over the transfer of Nicolas Pepe, according to reports

Manchester United are reportedly in ‘advanced talks’ with Lille over the possibility of signing winger Nicolas Pepe this summer. It is stated that Premier League clubs Arsenal and Liverpool are also interested in the Ivory Coast winger with Everton also monitoring the situation. Arsenal might end up being priced out of the race if true.

The Times has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s club are in ‘advanced talks’ for Pepe whilst Liverpool are only ‘assessing Pepe’s willingness to join them’ this summer. The 24-year-old was named in the Ligue 1 team of the year based on his performances and the 22 goals he scored as Lille finished as runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain.

It is said that Solskjaer wants to add some width to his team this summer. Daniel James had already been signed but he plays as a left-winger and United need a player for the right-wing. Mason Greenwood has played in this position during pre-season and has done well but more experience in the squad would take the pressure off him.

Samir Khiat, the agent of Pepe has stated that the 24-year-old could move anywhere this summer. It is also stated that Paris Saint-Germain could be an option for the Ivorian, especially if they get rid of Neymar this summer, they will need a replacement. Obviously, there is just over a fortnight before the summer transfer window closes so United might need to act fast.

“Nicolas is open to everything. The aim is for him to sign in the right place. PSG is a possibility.

“Today, all parties need to reach an agreement. There are exchanges and discussions. He is wanted by a considerable number of clubs.

“For him the most important thing is to be wanted and to go to a good club in which he will play and continue to progress.”

United have played three times in pre-season so far; beating Perth Glory 2-0, Leeds United 4-0 and Inter Milan 1-0. Granted, the latest match was lacking quality to break through and case Inter problems, although United did have the majority of possession and pressed the Italian side for the majority of the game. It took Greenwood’s talent to break the deadlock.

Solskjaer may choose to play Anthony Martial as a central striker which could mean that James plays on the left the majority of the time. If United signed Pepe, or a player of similar ability, then the attack would be much stronger. Of course, Solskjaer may choose to give Greenwood the opportunity to make that position his own, based on the impact he has has so far in pre-season, which so far has led to him scoring two goals.

copyright: JW