Monaco have enjoyed a successful transition in their project from assembling big-money players to developing youngsters. The change has certainly paid off this season too, with the French top-flight outfit on course to secure the Ligue 1 title while simultaneously preparing for a Champions League quarter-final tie against Dortmund.
Manchester United have prior history with Monaco—while Falcao did not succeed, the big money capture of Anthony Martial looks to have paid off for the long-term. Mourinho’s relationship with former Monaco director Luis Campos and super agent Jorge Mendes gives his club a good shot at most of the stars at Monaco this season. Who should they target?
Benjamin Mendy & Djibril Sidibe (Full-Backs)
United signed Luke Shaw as the heir to Patrice Evra on the left flank, but his three years as a Red Devil have been both underwhelming and unfortunate. Shaw has seemingly fallen out of favour with Mourinho, who prefers Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian—both of whom are not specialist left-backs. With the Portuguese’s penchant for specialist players evident, left-back looks to be a position for reinforcement in the summer, unless Shaw convinces Mourinho otherwise in pre-season.
Benjamin Mendy may be one of the options on the table. Mendy started his career off at Le Havre, moving to Marseille in 2013 and then to Monaco last summer. While this year has not been a breakthrough for him, he has nonetheless established himself as one of the best young full-backs in Europe, with his excellent crossing ability bagging eight assists in all competitions. However, competition is likely to be high for a full-back of his potential, and his similarity to Shaw will perhaps mean that United will not pursue Mendy.
Djibril Sidibe is slightly older at 24, and completes one of the most potent full-back duos in Europe. It is likely that only one of the two will leave in the summer, and with Antonio Valencia enjoying a new lease of life, right-back does not look to be of immediate concern for the time being. If one had to choose between the two for United, they’d take Mendy.
Fabinho (Defensive Midfielder / Right-Back)
Fabinho was rumoured to be closing in on a United deal last season, before eventually signing a new contract at the principality state. He was then targeted as a right-back, however Jardim’s conversion of the Brazilian to a midfielder changes the level of necessity.
His awareness, stature and ability on the ball provide the gifts needed to succeed in the Premier League, while his versatility and age are assets that will prove highly useful to any club. But Fabinho is not a specialist, and his teammate Bakayoko looks to be a better fit for the club. Monaco are likely to only let one of the duo go this season, so it will be interesting to see who United target. Fabinho will not be cheap, and as such it appears that his United chance has passed by the wayside in the short-term.
Tiemoue Bakayoko (Defensive Midfielder)
Michael Carrick has been an important cog in the United side this year, keeping his team’s play ticking with his incredible range of passing. But at 35, retirement is most certainly on the horizon; consequently, this is a position which demands reinforcement in the summer. More importantly, the right purchase could give record buy Pogba the freedom to roam in midfield.
Pogba’s fellow Frenchman, Tiemoue Bakayoko, has been a revelation in midfield for Monaco this season as he starts to achieve his potential. This is the fourth full season of his professional career (one spent at Rennes, three at Monaco), and he is likely to finish a Ligue 1 winner with significant Champions League experience.
Though not a traditional defensive midfielder, his arrival could spark a permanent change to a 4-3-3 system that benefits all players in the squad; meanwhile, his physicality is markedly better than that of Carrick. Bakayoko is a player that ticks all the boxes, and if he can follow the footsteps of his hero Yaya Toure, he’ll be a great addition to the United roster.
Bernardo Silva (Attacking Midfielder / Right-Wing)
Bernardo Silva has been linked with United for quite some time now. The Portuguese attacking midfielder has been a star this season, with eight goals and eight assists in all competitions. Quickly becoming one of the most coveted players in the world, his signature will be highly sought-after in the summer. It is no wonder that he has been linked with United given his prodigious talent and the links to Jorge Mendes, but it is still not likely to materialise.
With a plethora of attacking talent causing the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford to find gametime a prized commodity, adding another jewel to a star-studded line-up would only render minutes scarcer. Silva is similar to Mata in terms of style, and given his prize tag, it doesn’t look like Silva will be on the shortlist this summer, even though he is on the way to becoming world-class. It is for these same reasons that Thomas Lemar—another youngster to benefit from Monaco’s success—won’t find himself at Old Trafford next season.
Kylian Mbappe (Striker / Right-Wing)
The youngster whose signature every club is seeking, yet cannot secure. Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed a breakthrough year in which he has had the Midas touch, scoring at a phenomenal rate for any player, never mind an 18-year-old in his first full season. He has 19 goals in all competitions and is undoubtedly the crown jewel in the Monaco attack.
Mourinho is reportedly bewitched by the Bondy native, but the price Monaco name will be prohibitive—only natural given the teenager’s potential. Real Madrid have been credited with interest, while he’s also on the list for many other clubs.
But Mbappe’s signature may sideline Marcus Rashford, who had a similar breakthrough season in 2015-16. Hence, it may be best to pass on Mbappe for the sake of the players already on the roster. If at all he signs though, it is imperative that they loan him back for the season to let his development continue unhindered.
Given Mbappe is as good as if not better than Martial, his purchase would be expensive, yet with the potential to be fully repaid. It is tempting to sign the flavour of the season, but it may be unwise to do so. One to watch out for in the coming years.