Saul Niguez: Manchester United linked with Atletico Madrid star

Saul starred in Champions League win over Liverpool

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Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United but what would be bring to the Premier League club?

Reports in the British media claim United will attempt to lure the player - who has a £135m buyout clause - by offering him a wage increase to £200,000 a week.Paul Pogba's future remains uncertain and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's scouts have reportedly been tracking the Spain international as a potential replacement this summer.

Saul Niguez

  • Club: Atletico Madrid
  • Position: Defensive midfield
  • Age: 25
  • Nationality: Spain
  • Senior international caps: 19

Saul sparkled as Atleti dumped Liverpool out of the Champions League with a defensive masterclass in late March, having been linked with a move to United four years ago when Louis van Gaal was in charge.

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Diego Simeone's side is notoriously difficult to break down and Saul is the cornerstone of that resilience - ranking as the seventh top player in La Liga this season, according to the Sky Sports Power Rankings.

Saul is among the elite across a raft of defensive metrics. Only two players in the division have attempted more tackles: Real Madrid's Casemiro and Watford loanee Pervis Estupinan at Osasuna.

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In addition to dispossessing opponents, the Spaniard ranks fifth for 50/50 challenges and eighth for interceptions and aerial duels, while his above-average number of touches reinforces his effectiveness as the destroyer and distributor.

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As the heatmap above suggests, Saul typically patrols the left-of-centre middle third and the map below locates each of his 64 tackles in La Liga this term - frequently snuffing out danger in his own half.

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Graphic courtesy of Statsbomb

In terms of distribution, the graphic below highlights how the majority of his passes come down his left channel with 34 per cent attempted progressively upfield - while still retaining an above-average passing accuracy of 78 per cent.

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If Saul were to replace Pogba at United this summer, he could slot into midfield alongside Fred, Scott McTominay or Nemanja Matic - with Bruno Fernandes occupying an advanced central role.

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Fernandes' instant impact at Old Trafford could seal the deal, with a prospect of the Portugal international providing attacking thrust in front of two natural defensive midfielders - and there could be few better to fulfil the latter role than Saul.

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