If you believe Thiago Alcantara, there was never any chance of him joining Manchester United this summer. If you believe his father, a deal was all-but-done before the 22-year-old opted for the Bundesliga over the Premier League.
Either way, one thing is clear: United need a midfielder. And with each new statement from Barcelona declaring that Cesc Fabregas is going nowhere, David Moyes may soon have to admit defeat and settle on an alternative.
While the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Marouane Fellaini are seen as the most likely options, there is another player who could be the ideal signing for the English champions. And no, it isn’t Ilkay Gundogan, but he does play in Germany, and his name is Emre Can.
At just 19, Can has been hailed as one of German football’s next big things. Currently at Bayern Munich, his potential is such that there is no question of them selling him.
And yet with the recent arrivals of Thiago and Mario Gotze – new additions to a midfield already hailed as one of Europe’s best – it is unlikely Can will get much game-time in the coming seasons. Not in his preferred position at least; although in truth that doesn’t seem to bother him.
“I would play anywhere,” he has said previously, “I mainly want to play games.
“As a young player, I should not put up with everything, but on the other side should not be too cheeky. I need match practice, but sometimes I’ll play in the reserves.”
At the time of those quotes, Can dismissed the notion of a loan move, saying he intended to stay at the Allianz Arena and was happy to step in when others were injured.
But that was before the arrival of two of the best young midfielders in Europe, and it would be interesting to know if his opinion has now changed.
At just 19, Can has years to stake a claim for the first team. And yet as United discovered to their cost in the case of Paul Pogba, some players are ready early – and they know it.
Able to play either as a left-back or a centre-back, and having excelled as a number 10 in the Under-17 World Cup, he has the potential to be one of Europe’s most complete players in years to come.
And while his flexibility may allow Pep Guardiola to play him everywhere at different times rather than somewhere all the time, it is in midfield that Can is at his best.
So while United may not be able to tempt him away in a permanent deal this summer, the offer of a loan move may be the best option for both parties. A talented and ambitious young player easily secured while Moyes continues his attempts to complete that one potentially career-defining signing.
Can is not the player to single-handedly inspire United to next season’s title. But he is an outstanding young footballer who will get far more chances at Old Trafford than he would at the German treble-winners.
And while United fans may favour permanent moves over loans, the two years Carlos Tevez spent at Old Trafford were among the most successful in the club’s history. Can may not be that good, but he has the potential to be.
Would you like to see Can at Old Trafford?
image: © jiazi