Saudi Arabia clubs want to sign Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes

Casemiro - Saudi Arabia clubs want to sign Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes

Saudi Pro League clubs are pushing to sign the Manchester United midfielder Casemiro when the transfer window opens next month.

There is also huge interest in the Brazilian’s United team-mate – and the captain – Bruno Fernandes. Although that deal is regarded as far less likely, it is being discussed within the Pro League.

According to sources up to 10 marquee signings are expected to be made this summer – with Cristiano Ronaldo’s club Al-Nassr, whose squad includes Aymeric Laporte and Sadio Mané, most strongly linked with Casemiro.

The Brazilian’s representatives are already understood to have held talks with Pro League clubs. United are prepared to sell and would like any deal agreed at the start of the window but will not push Casemiro out.

Ambitious moves are also being discussed for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson. It is already known there is interest in Mohamed Salah, who was subject of a failed £150 million bid last year from Al-Ittihad, and Kevin De Bruyne.

As with last summer it appears the Pro League will attempt to raid the Premier League – and clubs there want to do deals, recognising they can get higher prices than anywhere else – with United having already forged links with clubs within the league, most notably Ittihad, who are based in Jeddah.

Alisson (left) and Ederson - Saudi Arabia clubs want to sign Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes
Alisson (left) and Ederson are also understood to be transfer targets - Bradley Ormesher

John Murtough, then United’s football director, has twice flown to Saudi Arabia to hold talks about potential deals and build relations. Although Murtough has since left the club he travelled with Matt Hargreaves, United’s head of player negotiations.

That was deliberate with Murtough knowing it was possible he would depart and therefore Hargreaves will be able to provide the continuity with contacts. He is being integrated into United’s new leadership structure under technical director Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth, when he eventually arrives as sporting director.

There is expected to be far less transfer activity in the Pro League in the forthcoming window after an extraordinary £767 million spent last year – second only to the Premier League – with 94 overseas players signed.

However the Pro League, which aims to become one of the biggest leagues in world football, also recognises that transfer windows offer opportunities for it to raise its profile.

Pro League clubs filled their foreign quotas of eight players but there is room for movement with some signings being moved on and with more ‘targeted’ deals expected. Quotas have been raised to 10, although two of those must be Under-21 players.

Casemiro has endured a difficult season at United and has struggled even more after being asked to play as a makeshift centre-half during the club’s current injury crisis. Following Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal, Casemiro was accused of being “lazy” and “naive” by former United captain Wayne Rooney, who was on pundit duties with Sky Sports.

Casemiro has also just been dropped by Brazil from their squad for the forthcoming Copa America.

The 32-year-old has two years left on a four-year contract – with United holding the option for another 12 months – on the deal he agreed when he was signed for £70 million from Real Madrid in 2022. It remains to be seen what kind of fee United will demand for Casemiro.

Telegraph Sport revealed last month that United are prepared to listen to offers for the majority of their first-team squad this summer. While the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Rasmus Hojlund and Alejandro Garnacho are regarded as strictly off limits, the club are believed to be reluctant to narrow their options elsewhere within the squad.

It means United, who are likely to miss out on European football altogether, could be willing to hold talks on most of their other players.

The club will have to effectively operate a “sell-to-buy” policy, so restricted are their finances after a £555 million spend over the previous three summers and the limits imposed by the Premier League’s financial rules.

Whether Fernandes is one of the players who goes remains to be seen. The United captain also has two more years left on his contract, and with an option for a further year, and the 29-year-old would be in demand if he became available.

But that seems highly unlikely with United’s new owners, Ineos, having quickly concluded that the Portuguese international remains a critical part of the squad as a player but also as a leader. His importance has been underlined by how United have struggled without him.

In saying that, if United were made an extraordinary offer for Fernandes and he was interested in leaving them it would have to be considered. There has been previous interest in Fernandes from Al-Hilal, who have just won the Pro League, and Ittihad would be interested this time round if they were given any encouragement.