It was only going to be a matter of time before Nathaniel Clyne's performances this season saw him linked with a big money move to higher reaches. Cue Louis van Gaal and Manchester United.
According to various reports, the Dutch head coach is prepared to battle for the England international's signature, in the knowledge that his current deal with Southampton expires at the end of next season.
Naturally, Southampton remain keen to tie the youngster to a new deal but fear the former Crystal Palace man could follow in the footsteps of Luke Shaw by leaving St Mary's for Old Trafford in the near future.
United's defensive problems are well-documented, and while many would expect Clyne to represent an automatic upgrade to Van Gaal's current options at right-back, the Opta stats will certainly surprise a few.
|Team||Pass Acc (%)||Pass/ App||Cross Acc (%)||Key Pass/ App||Dribble/ App||Tackle/ App||Intercept/ App||Clear/ App||Apps||Mins|
Despite making fewer appearances than Nathaniel Clyne throughout the current season, Rafael has actually outperformed the Southampton-man in the vast majority of key areas.
Clyne holds the advantage when it comes to his tackling prowess. The England youngster has averaged just over three tackles per appearance; almost double the efforts of Rafael. Defensively Louis van Gaal's side have been criticized this term and Clyne's arrival would certainly go a long way to improving the team in this department. Only one player (Mile Jedinak) has completed more tackles than Clyne in the league, having made 46 to the Saints full-back’s 43.
Nonetheless, the Saints teenager proves inferior in terms of chances created, dribbles won and his general passing ability. Meanwhile, he has recorded fewer successful interceptions and clearances, per match, throughout the opening months of the current campaign. However, Clyne has played a major role in maintaining Southampton's excellent defensive record this term. To date, the south-coast club have conceded on just ten occasions - less than any other English top flight club.
While, at 24 years of age, Rafael is not much older than Clyne (23), you get the feeling that the latter has much more to offer in terms of his potential ability.
The former Crystal Palace man has only recently burst onto the scene at international level, while he has grown from strength to strength since his debut top flight campaign. The error and injury-prone Rafael has never fully convinced the Old Trafford Faithful, despite weighing in with the odd man-of-the-match displays, and despite the statistical evidence, many would see Clyne as an ideal upgrade.
Fantastic in defense and effective going forward, the Southampton defender is as qualified, if not more, for the right-back role at Old Trafford as any other player in the English game.