Man Utd's £91.3m bid for Sancho rejected by Borussia Dortmund; United working on four alternative options - Dembele, Watford's Ismaila Sarr, Real Madrid's Luka Jovic and free agent Edinson Cavani
Thursday 1 October 2020 09:21, UK
Manchester United are in talks with Barcelona over a loan deal for Ousmane Dembele, while the Premier League club are also considering an improved offer for Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho.
United are keen to sign a winger during this transfer window and, while their first choice is Sancho, Dembele represents a strong alternative.
The 23-year-old was a club-record signing for Barcelona when he arrived from Borussia Dortmund for €105m (£95.75m) in August 2017.
He has won two La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey during his three seasons in Spain, but has been restricted to 75 appearances in all competitions by a series of injuries.
The France international is one of four alternative options United are working on if they are unable to sign Sancho, along with Watford's Ismaila Sarr, Real Madrid's Luka Jovic and free agent Edinson Cavani.
On Tuesday, United had a bid for Sancho worth up to £91.3m (€100m) rejected by Borussia Dortmund. The offer was for an initial £73m, rising to up to £91.3m, which fell short of Dortmund's £108m valuation.
United are now considering whether to return with an improved bid for the England international.
Dortmund set United a deadline of August 10 to agree a deal for Sancho, and have stated on several occasions the winger will not be leaving now that date has passed.
Sancho has not travelled with the rest of the Dortmund squad for the German Super Cup match against Bayern Munich on Wednesday due to a "respiratory infection". He has tested negative for Covid-19.
If United do manage to sign a winger before Monday's transfer deadline, it could have repercussions for Daniel James, who has played for just 45 minutes this season.
The 22-year-old was the subject of a loan offer from Leeds last week and, while he wants to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford, the arrival of another winger could lead to a reassessment of his future at the club.
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Sky Sports News reporter Dharmesh Sheth told The Transfer Show:
"Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman had some interesting things to say earlier today regarding Dembele and Manchester United, saying: "They are decisions on part of the club and the player". He went on to say that while he is there, he will count on Dembele.
"It appears Barca seem much more open to do business on Dembele than Dortmund are with Sancho. It's definitely one to watch because it seems with what Koeman is saying, that he hasn't ruled out Demebele leaving the Nou Camp.
"It is thought United are working on at least four alternatives to Sancho... While Cavani and Jovic aren't seen as like-for-like replacements, I think Manchester United's priority is to strengthen the depth of that forward line.
"With Cavani, Man United would have to take into account his wages and his age - he's 33 years old - and also the length of the contract he would want at this stage of his career. As for Jovic, the Real Madrid boss Zineidne Zidane won't rule out a departure. There are reports coming from Italy that he's been offered to Roma.
"Then there is Sarr. If Manchester United fail to get Sancho, Cavani or Jovic, all is not lost because they can still buy Sarr until the domestic deadline on October 16 because Premier League clubs and EFL clubs can still do business after October 5 so they have another 11 days to maybe get a deal done.
"Manchester United's interest in Sarr can almost take a back seat, they can use it as a watching brief just now, unless someone else comes in for him, of course."
Former Manchester United assistant manager Steve McClaren has told Sky Sports News he thinks Dembele would only be a short-term option for his former club, until they are able to sign Sancho.
McClaren encouraged United to meet Dortmund's asking price for Sancho, and also wants them to upgrade their defence, saying: "They need a centre-forward, they need a centre-back and they need a left-back. Those are the priorities.
"But players like Sancho don't come around very often. He's a unique type of player to go into Manchester United. They've been searching all across the world. They're only £20m short - come on, get the deal done! It's for the future.
"United have done well so far with their scouting and who they have brought in. If they're still going for Sancho, then I think Dembele is for the short-term, a stopgap.
"But they need a centre-forward, and they need a centre-back. If they want to play with intensity and a high line, they need speed at the back."
Sky Sports' Jack Wilkinson:
A bluff to bring Borussia Dortmund to the table, or a genuine alternative for the season until efforts to sign Jadon Sancho can be renewed next summer, on or off the pitch, Ousmane Dembele could certainly do a job for Manchester United.
Dembele, a World Cup winner, undoubtedly comes with pedigree. Tasked with filling Neymar's boots, the 23-year-old was once the second-most expensive signing in football history when he moved from Dortmund to the Camp Nou in 2017.
There was a promising start and glimpses of sheer brilliance, but with more time spent on the treatment table than on the field, it's fair to say Dembele's stint at Barcelona has fallen well short of expectation.
In a little over three seasons, Dembele has featured in just 52 La Liga matches for Barcelona, scoring just 12 goals. In the same period, since the start of the 2017/18 season, Sancho has made 80 appearances and 30 goals for Dembele's former club Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
The numbers are stacked in Sancho's favour and yet, as we enter the final week of the summer window, United are in talks with alternatives to their primary target.
United may not be solely to blame for the Sancho impasse, but a move for an injury-prone player who has made just a single, 20-minute appearance throughout 2020 is symptomatic of the now frantic scramble to bring signings to Old Trafford, however much sense they make.
Sky Sports News reporter Gary Cotterill told The Transfer Show:
"Borussia Dortmund are pointing to a little bit of déjà vu.
"At the moment, one of the biggest clubs in the world is trying to sign a young, extremely talented attacking player, a 20-year-old from Dortmund. Three years ago, one of the biggest clubs in the world were trying to sign a very talented, much sought-after attacking player from Dortmund.
"This time, it's Manchester United trying to sign Sancho and three years ago, it was Barcelona trying to sign Dembele. Barca came in with a bid of €100m - that's a familiar figure - and Dortmund immediately rejected it, saying it wasn't enough - that sounds familiar as well.
"Negotiations continued, Dembele dug in, he started to agitate and even missed training a couple of times but Dortmund dug in as well. In the end, Barcelona paid the money that Dortmund initially wanted and with add-ons and extras, anything up to €150m.
"So is that a sign of how determined Dortmund are when it comes to the negotiation process? We'll have to wait and see if it ends in the same way."
Football writer Andy Mitten has been questioning Manchester United's waning power in the transfer market and says they have lost the ability to do the "dark arts of transfers" with fans receiving "mixed messages" about the club's financial position.
"It's very frustrating for fans and they've seen just one player come in so far," Mitten told Sky Sports News.
"I don't think anyone has the same pulling power as Sir Alex Ferguson but to be fair to Ole, he's been putting calls in and I know he's spoken to several managers about players who he likes."
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The summer transfer window closes at 11pm on Monday, October 5 with a feast of activity lined up on Transfer Deadline Day on Sky Sports News and across our Sky Sports platforms.
A domestic-only window for deals between the Premier League and EFL then runs from October 5 and closes on Friday, October 16 at 5pm. Follow all the news and analysis on SSN and across Sky Sports' digital platforms, including with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.