Manchester United move for Jerome Boateng worth the risk, club's issues not his fault
Sources have told ESPN FC that Manchester United are keen to sign Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng this week and the centre-back looks like exactly the kind of player and personality who could address many, if not all, of United's problems in defence.
The 29-year-old has an elite reputation, is a winner of the UEFA Champions League, World Cup, multiple German league titles, has represented Germany over 70 times and even captained them. Why, then -- aside from his year spent across the divide playing for Manchester City -- are so many United supporters anxious at the thought of his acquisition?
For one thing, these are no ordinary times. Had this been the summer of 2016 following Boateng's stellar performance at the European Championships -- where he was a colossus in both defence and attack -- or 2014 when he was a 25-year-old who had just won the World Cup, then the reception would have been very different indeed.
But it's 2018 and the world has just witnessed Germany's catastrophic exit from the World Cup in the group stages, a shambles which Boateng was uncomfortably close to.
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Boateng was sent off in late win against Sweden during a performance that he, or his growing band of detractors, will never forget and missed the defeat to South Korea that knocked them out as a result. His stock is at a startling low for a player of his class.
Yet much of the criticism coming Boateng's way is unfair and some of it has arisen because of the expensive misadventure that was the signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger, as some fear would be the case with Boateng, was a World Cup winner who arrived from Bayern Munich some way beyond his best. Though he did have the odd commanding turn for United, there were more times where the midfielder found himself off the pace and he was certainly never a consistently dominant force.
Boateng is a different case; unlike Schweinsteiger, he is less prone to injury (though has had his own issues in the past). He will still only be 30 in September, and -- despite his poor form this summer -- remains one of the world's top defenders.
There is also a sense that United and Boateng could need this move to happen as much as each other.
One of Jose Mourinho's key problems last season was the lack of a defender who could distribute the ball swiftly, accurately and directly over long distances from the back, which Boateng would address at a single stroke. His addition would also allow Mourinho the option of three ball-playing centre-backs -- alongside Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
Boateng, too, may be in need of a fresh start: he has won six straight German league titles and it would be understandable if he was looking for a new challenge. He may also have a sense of unfinished business in England, given that his previous visit to the Premier League -- with United's rivals City -- left him with only an FA Cup to show for his efforts.
The greatest question mark around Boateng, though, not the player's fault. Instead, it relates to the haphazard nature of United's recruitment strategy.
With only a few days to go of the transfer window, United seem to be scrambling again -- a bizarre state of affairs for a club of their influence and resources. While they may argue that the World Cup has got in the way, there was nothing to stop a conversation with Boateng's agent occurring a month ago.
A worrying pattern is occurring which suggests United are not adept at getting deals done with any reliability. For every signing of a player like Fred, there seem to be a handful of fruitless pursuits: Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic and Chelsea's Willian for example.
Bringing in Boateng would be a coup if it formed part of a clearly-identifiable plan, but at present it looks like an act of desperation, a desire to sign a big name in order to assuage the doubts of the supporters. It looks like yet another short-term solution rather than a signing to be effective both now and for the future.
That is a shame, because even at 29 years old, Boateng will feel that he still has plenty to offer. His arrival would also signal renewed ambition on his part -- it would be far easier, after all, to remain in Munich and continue to win with a team so much better than their domestic rivals.
Boateng has been written off by several commentators with undue haste, and could instead provide United with the presence and precision that they have not had in central defence for quite some time. While United should not be making signings this near to the close of the transfer window, nor those which seem to contain an element of risk, Boateng could prove to be a gamble worth taking.