Jose Mourinho has dismissed suggestions he is plotting a move to sign Neymar, the Barcelona and Brazil forward, this summer as “absurd”.
Manchester United were linked this week with a £173 million move for Neymar but Mourinho has claimed it would be “impossible” to sign the player and said he would never burden his club with such an unrealistic task. Antoine Griezmann, of Atletico Madrid, remains United’s priority forward target.
“It's speculation, I always try to be objective and pragmatic with clubs and to ask them what they can give me,” Mourinho told ESPN Brazil. “To ask for Neymar is absurd.
“A club like Barcelona cannot and will not lose Neymar. Although [Lionel] Messi is still a young player with years ahead of him, he's almost 30, and Neymar will be the great player of Barcelona post-Messi. So much that I think it [trying to sign Neymar] is like trying to break into a safe, impossible.”
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Griezmann has a £85 million release clause in his contract that United are planning to trigger at the end of the season.Mourinho asked United’s board last year to focus their efforts on signing Griezmann this summer and Old Trafford remains the France striker’s most likely destination.
The Frenchman, who has been in outstanding form of late, will form the centrepiece of Mourinho’s plans to strengthen key parts of his team, with Monaco midfielder Tieumoue Bakayako another leading target. Mourinho also wants a world class centre-half.
Griezmann is being targeted as a long-term replacement for Wayne Rooney, who is expected to leave United in the summer when he enters the final 12 months of his contract.
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Rooney has been linked with moves to the US and China but one Major League Soccer chief has questioned the commercial value of bringing the United and England captain to America and claims he lacks David Beckham’s brand power. Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy was significant in helping to raise the profile of the MLS but Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti does not see Rooney having a similar effect.
“I don’t think anyone could deny that was a gamechanging moment for our league when Beckham came, and it was a really smart move,” he said. “David Beckham brought worldwide relevance to Major League Soccer. He was a trailblazer for other players to look to come over and he opened a lot of eyes.
“I’m not sure if Rooney is as big a brand – just because Beckham was so ‘pop culture’. There was a huge knock-on effect of having him here. There were definitely players who said ‘if David Beckham can do it, maybe it applies to me.’ “From a football perspective, there will be the hardcore fans that say ‘wow, Wayne Rooney’. “But with David Beckham, you don’t need to be a football fan to know who he is and what he represents.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho has said he will not hold it against Zlatan Ibrahimovic if he opts to leave United this summer, although the Swede is expected to commit for another season.
"I am just calm and waiting for the decision," Mourinho told Sky Sports Soccer Saturday.
"If the decision is for him to stay and he is happy with that, we are delighted with that. If his decision is to leave and try to find a different challenge, I will be also happy for him.
"He is [a big part of our success this season] but the human being is more important than the player and the team. If his decision is to leave and try to be happy with his family and have a different reality, so be it."