Manchester United are pushing ahead with a surprise bid for Juventus’s Adrien Rabiot and are considering a move to finally sign Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as they attempt to rescue what has become a frustrating transfer window.
A fresh offer for another Italy-based player, Marko Arnautovic, is also expected after Bologna rejected United’s initial proposal of paying €8.5 million (£7.2m) for the 33-year-old forward who is nevertheless very keen to move to Old Trafford.
The moves for Rabiot and, potentially, Milinkovic-Savic follow the growing realisation that Frenkie de Jong, United’s No 1 target throughout the summer, just does not want to join them.
The Dutch midfielder is intent on staying at Barcelona even though they are trying to force him out and are even suggesting his contract with them is not legal.
Barcelona want De Jong to sign a new deal on reduced terms and it is expected his future will be sorted out this week ahead of the deadline for La Liga’s cost controls. Chelsea have also held talks with Barcelona on De Jong – and are interested in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – but have not received any encouragement that it is worth making a bid.
United’s offer of around £70m was effectively accepted by Barcelona but the deal has not progressed and it is clear De Jong is not interested which if it remains the case is a severe blow to manager Erik ten Hag.
The pressure is already on the Dutchman after Sunday’s shocking 2-1 defeat at home during which, tellingly, he substituted both central midfielders with Fred and Scott McTominay taken off.
'Sense of despair at Old Trafford after opening day loss'
The move for Rabiot is more advanced between the clubs although, as yet, no contact has been made with his mother, Veronique, who also represents him. She will only deal directly with United’s football director John Murtough and does not want to speak to intermediaries.
Juventus want €15m-€20m (£12.5m-£17m) for the 27-year-old France international who has told the Italian club he wants to leave and is in the final year of his contract. Juventus have agreed to his request and he does not feature in the plans of coach Max Allegri.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport in June, Rabiot wants to join a Premier League club and, ideally, one that is playing Champions League football. However the exception to that stipulation, according to sources close to the player, is if United do want him and he would be interested because of the club’s stature.
Raising the possibility of signing Milinkovic-Savic will have United fans rolling their eyes given the club has been linked to the Serbian midfielder for at least the past three years. But intermediaries believe a deal can actually be done for the 27-year-old even though Lazio do not want to sell and are aware of United’s renewed interest.
They are considering offering Milinkovic-Savic a contract extension – his current deal expires in 2024. So far a price has not been set – it would take around €60m (£50m), less than De Jong’s valuation - with talks at a very early stage as United consider whether to go for it.
Following Sunday’s defeat there is a sense of despair at United who have struggled to make an impact in the transfer market. New signings Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen did well but Ten Hag is well aware that United lack a goal threat.
One of his other main targets this summer is the Ajax winger Antony but United are not prepared to meet the valuation for the 22-year-old Brazilian, and there has been absolutely no progress on that deal, again much to Ten Hag’s frustration.
With Anthony Martial injured and Cristiano Ronaldo not fully fit and wanting to leave United have moved for Arnautovic, the former West Ham United and Stoke City forward.
Although a second offer is likely to succeed there is less confidence from some sources at United that Arnautovic will prove as successful a potential signing as Rabiot but he has previously worked with Ten Hag and his assistant Steve McClaren at Dutch club, Twente.
United are set to miss out on another player they have been interested in with 19-year-old Slovenian striker Benjamin Sesko set to stay at Red Bull Salzburg for another season before joining partner club RB Leipzig in 2023.