Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Erik ten Hag forced to play waiting game as Harry Maguire replacement won’t be swayed by Man Utd, Tottenham interest

Kim Min jae South Korea 2022 TEAMtalk1

Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti has warned Manchester United and Tottenham that defender Kim Min-jae is unlikely to leave for the Premier League anytime soon.

The 26-year-old joined I Partenopei last summer when the Italian club paid Fenerbahce in the region of €18m for his signature. That figure now looks money well spent as the South Korea international has shone in his new surroundings. He is part of a Napoli side that has blazed a trail to the top of Serie A.

The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona outfit sat eight points clear of AC Milan heading into the World Cup break.

They have won 13 and drawn two of their 15 league games, conceding only 12 goals along the way.

Those numbers are bound to attract the attention of Europe’s big hitters and a number of clubs have taken note.

Both United and Spurs have sent scouts and received favourable reports on the man anchoring defence.

Spallettti’s men have been superb in the first part of the campaign, with Kim playing his part in a miserly defence.

Napoli inserted a release clause of around £43m when they offered him a three-year deal. And it was recently reported that club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis wants to tear up that contract.

He wants the Asian star to ink fresh terms, with a much larger release clause inserted. As yet, that has not happened and it remains to be seen how it plays out.

And Spalletti is adamant that the way the fans have taken to Kim means it will be tough for him to depart.

“There are cities with more relevance at a footballing level but not the same passion as Napoli fans,” he told Calciomercato.com.

“When a player experiences this passion, it’s hard to consider other clubs, even in the Premier League.”

Narrow window to make Kim move

Manchester United chief Erik ten Hag has serious doubts over the future of central defender Harry Maguire.

The former Leicester City ace has been benched by the Old Trafford chief. And it was maybe slightly surprising that he was picked for England’s World Cup squad.

However, the 29-year-old’s Qatar displays have proved that Gareth Southgate was right to gamble on his selection.

But Ten Hag wants further back up at the heart of his rearguard, with Maguire tipped to leave next summer.

Spurs boss Antonio Conte is also known to be in the market for a new centre-back. Kim fits the bill and would be joining compatriot Son Heung-min at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

But Spalletti feels certain that the ex-Beijing Guoan star has no intention of jumping ship

“It’s hard to imagine Kim leaving Napoli because he is happy in this city and in this club,” he added. “This is the right place for him.”

Clubs looking to act on Kim’s current contract must do so in July next year. His release clause is valid for just 15 days during that month.

However, if De Laurentiis gets his way, the powerful stopper may well have a new deal before then.

Kim was part of the South Korea World Cup side but could not prevent his side going down 4-1 to Brazil in the last-16.

It seems likely he will see out the rest of the season in Naples. But, despite Spalletti’s confidence, Premier League money might be hard for Napoli to resist in the off-season.

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