Manchester United interest in signing a talented new central defender have been confirmed after an Italian journalist revealed details of a meeting over his transfer.
United manager Erik ten Hag is looking to revolutionise his side, with a tired-looking Red Devils squad labouring home in sixth place last season. Having spent well over £200m in the summer on phase one of his redevelopment, the early signs are that the club are on an upward trajectory.
Four of those six summer signings – Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Antony and Christian Eriksen – have quickly become fixtures in the side. And promising wins over Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham have given a glimpse into what the Ten Hag era promises.
That said, there are still some inconsistencies to iron out. Defeats to Brighton, Brentford and Aston Villa show there is still plenty of work to do. And the derby hammering to Manchester City also shows there is still a gap in quality to make up.
However, with the January window opening in 19 days, Ten Hag has an ideal opportunity to strengthen his squad again.
Once again, funds are likely to be at his disposal and Ten Hag is formulating a number of potential deals. He very much has a new right-back in his sights and a report on Tuesday details the three-man shopping list he has drawn up.
But that might not be the only defensive addition he makes. Indeed, the United manager is also reportedly looking for another central defensive option.
And one man they have persistently been linked with is Napoli defender Kim-min Jae.
The Napoli colossus was signed in a bargain £15.9m (€18.5m) deal from Fenebahce over the summer. Stepping in as Kalidou Koulibaly’s replacement, he has rapidly found his feet.
Man Utd talks for Kim-min Jae confirmed
And the South Korea defender has quickly settled into his new surroundings, proving one of Serie A’s best. His form has seen speculation that both Tottenham and Manchester United are considering moves for Kim.
And their hopes have been lifted amid claims the defender has a £43m (€50m) exit clause in his contract.
Whether United will trigger that in January or the summer remains to be seen. However, their interest in recruiting the player – reportedly seen as a dream Harry Maguire upgrade by Ten Hag – has been confirmed for the first time.
Revealing that secret talks over a prospective transfer have been held in Naples, journalists Antonio Corrado and Mimmo Malfitano – the latter of il Gazzetta dello Sport – offered more insight.
Corrado told Area Napoli: “I can tell you that there was a meeting between Kim and his meeting with a foreign club at the Paradiso Hotel in Naples. It was held during the week before the match against Udinese [November 12]. I couldn’t find out the name of the club.
“Whoever gave me the news, told me they spoke in English, but couldn’t get the name of the club. It’s no coincidence that Napoli immediately took steps to renew the player’s contract and eliminate the release clause.”
At this point, Malfitano steps in, adding: “So I’ll tell you: the club in question was Manchester United.”
Napoli looking to remove transfer clause
News that Napoli are looking to remove Kim’s exit clause with the reward of a new deal come as no surprise. He has proved an inspired signing for a Gli Azzurri side who sit eight points clear at the Serie A summit. They are also yet to lose in the league, having conceded just 12 goals so far.
But while that clause remains in place, United, with John Murtough leading the negotiations, know they have a chance.
And his prospective arrival will lead to further doubts over the future of Maguire. The defender impressed during the World Cup for England. However, he has struggled for the best part of 18 months in a United shirt.
That signing could push Maguire down to fourth in the pecking order behind Martinez, Raphael Varane and Kim.