He was supposed to be the next big European superstar but things haven’t quite worked out for Anthony Martial at Manchester United yet. And now he has decisions to make.
The Frenchman arrived at Old Trafford on a four-year deal on Summer Deadline Day 2015 from Monaco for £36m; a world record fee for a teenager which still stands although will be eclipsed when Kylian Mbappe completes his £128m move – also from Monaco – to PSG this summer.
Martial’s deal had clauses in it meaning the total amount could rise to £58m and one of those stipulations could be the reason behind why he is finding regular football in Jose Mourinho’s side difficult to come by. Once Martial has scored 25 goals for United, they will owe Monaco around £8.9m in a one-off payment. The Frenchman currently has 24 goals.
That is one theory of course. The other is that he simply doesn’t fit into Jose Mourinho’s system. In his first season in England under Louis van Gaal, Martial started 29 of his 31 games that season, scoring 11, but since the Portuguese coach arrived in 2016, the youngster’s involvement has become more peripheral.
He has already come off the bench more times this season than he did in his first two years at Old Trafford. For a 22-year-old with a World Cup looming, this simply isn’t enough.
And that may be why reports are emerging that Manchester United are ready to offer him a new contract. He has 15 months to run on his current deal and his head is being turned, with his agent recently meeting Juventus director Pavel Nedved. According to ESPN FC, the Red Devils have the option to extend his contract by another 12 months, but are keen to keep Old Trafford even longer, believing he has the ability to become one of the world’s best forwards.
But that development is currently being hindered. Martial managed to work his way back into Mourinho’s plans this season ahead of the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford but the January arrival of Alexis Sanchez has pushed him back down the pecking order.
He has had to keep compromising for new players. He gave up his No.9 shirt to Zlatan Ibrahimovic just a year after joining while Sanchez’s arrival this season has been Martial shifted from the left wing.
And this was after Martial had put himself back in the spotlight this season – scoring six goals in the opening 14 games – but he now finds himself out in the cold, albeit currently unavailable with injury currently.
The frustration for Martial, and probably for some Manchester United fans, is that he clearly has untold potential but at 22, players like that surely need as much game time as possible, and in their most favoured position. Martial wants to play up front but will play out wide if needed, saying in the past: “If the coach puts me on the wing then that means it is better for the team and for me that is the most important thing.”
There is excitement in France about his potential and some believe that he can develop into one of the greats, but it feels at the moment like his progress is being stunted by a team that he doesn’t quite fit into, a hefty transfer fee weighing him down and a manager who prefers to play a defensive system.
So it’s no wonder his head might be turned and moving to a team like Juventus, who showed at Wembley against Tottenham how devastating they can be going forward, could be too good an opportunity to pass up.
The next 15 months could be crucial for Martial and his future development. If a new deal is on the table and he signs it, he will need assurances over playing time, otherwise his immense potential could go to waste.