Man Utd disrupt Prem rivals as defensive star seals Serie A switch with key clause absent

Axel Tuanzebe playing for Man Utd in pre-season August 2021

Axel Tuanzebe has signed for Napoli on loan from Manchester United after cancelling his temporary agreement with Aston Villa, the clubs have all confirmed.

Tuanzebe was on loan at Villa from Man Utd this season, for the third time in his career. But the spell has now been interrupted so he can head to Italy instead. United have shipped him off to Napoli on another loan deal.

It will run until the end of the season and there is no option to buy.

The 24-year-old had played 11 times for Villa this season, but he only managed eight minutes of action after Steven Gerrard replaced Dean Smith as head coach.

Gerrard said he would have been happy for Tuanzebe to see out the season at Villa Park, but admitted it was out of his hands. Now, confirmation has arrived that he is ready for a new challenge.

Man Utd have recalled him and instantly sent him on loan to Napoli, which represents the first time he has played for a club abroad.

Napoli needed a new defender after agreeing to let Kostas Manolas leave last month. The Greek defender re-joined Olympiacos in his native country.

Although he wasn’t a regular starter, Napoli needed to replenish the ranks. Tuanzebe emerged as a possible target last week and things have progressed quickly.

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Now, the arrangement has been confirmed for the rest of the season. He will be hoping to help their outside push for the Scudetto. Napoli are currently third in Serie A, six points behind leaders Inter having played a game more.

After that, it remains to be seen what the future will hold for Tuanzebe. United have him under contract until 2023 with the option for a further year.

Previous reports have revealed that United will receive a €600,000 loan fee for the defender. If Napoli qualify for the Champions League, the figure would be topped up by €400,000.

Should he pass a certain number of appearances, Napoli will pay an additional €200,000 to the Red Devils.

The first of those appearances could come against Sampdoria on Sunday if his new club can register him in time.

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Tuanzebe transfer rules out Liverpool move

Earlier this week, one agent revealed how Tuanzebe’s move to Napoli would take one option off the table for United’s rivals Liverpool.

Napoli could instead have taken Liverpool squad man Nat Phillips. But his agent Colin Murdock confirmed it is now no longer an option.

He told Area Napoli, via Sport Witness: “Napoli have taken Axel Tuanzebe, our former client, on loan, so I think they have finished their operations as regards to the role of central defender.

“Therefore, I don’t think we need further comments on Nat Phillips.”

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Only time will tell what will happen with the Liverpool man. But in Tuanzebe’s case, everything is now clear – until the summer at least.

Tuanzebe has made 37 appearances for Man Utd across his career so far. He represented Villa 46 times across three spells. Now, he is ready for a new adventure in Italy.

It is also as yet unclear whether Villa will make a move to replace him. They still have Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause at centre-back.

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