Saul starred in Champions League win over Liverpool
Monday 1 June 2020 16:00, UK
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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