Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Man Utd transfers: FIVE top targets with release clauses that won’t break the bank

Ryan Baldi
Alan Varela, Joshua Zirkzee, Ian Maatsen

TT looks at five players who have reasonable release clauses that Man Utd could sign

It’s expected to be a busy summer for Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new football operations team and TT looks at five top players with reasonable release clauses that could move to Manchester United.

United’s season ended on the ultimate high of beating rivals Manchester City in the FA Cup final last weekend.

But the fact Red Devils’ were eighth in the Premier League – their worst finish since 1990 – along with a negative goal difference and their most all-competitions defeats (19) since 1978 has not only brought Erik ten Hag’s position as manager into doubt but also shown a clear need for squad improvements.

New United co-owner Ratcliffe has already begun a sweeping overhaul of the club’s backroom personnel and he and his INEOS group will oversee United’s transfer business going forward.

However, a lack of Champions League football and a need to comply with the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules means the 20-time champions cannot spend freely.

With that in mind, here are five players they could target whose release clauses mean there would be no need for negotiation and no inflated fees…

Michael Olise

Reportedly United’s top summer target in the attacking department, Michael Olise’s Crystal Palace contract is believed to include a £60million release clause.

The London-born former France international winger has been outstanding at Selhurst Park since making an £8.37 million move from Championship side Reading in 2021, but the latter stages of the 2023-24 season saw Olise take his game to a new level under the tutelage of new manager Oliver Glasner.

A campaign that was blighted early on by injuries saw the 22-year-old finish with 10 goals – including a stunning solo effort in a 4-0 hammering of United in April – and six assists in just 1,277 minutes of Premier League action, meaning that on average he directly contributed to a Palace goal every 79.8 minutes.

With Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho both preferring to start on the left flank, and with Jadon Sancho’s Old Trafford future uncertain, there is an obvious role for the left-footed Olise on the right side of the Red Devils’ front line.

Alan Varela

After being left out of the line-up for the FA Cup final, the culmination of what has been a season of desperate form for the Brazilian on an individual level, it seems highly likely that Casemiro has played his last game for the club.

The former Real Madrid man’s £400,000-a-week contract, which has two years left to run, will severely limit his market, but he has already been linked with multiple Saudi Pro League clubs.

Casemiro’s departure, if Sofyan Amrabat’s loan from Fiorentina is not made permanent, would leave a gaping hole to fill at the base of United’s midfield. England teenager Kobbie Mainoo has been exceptional in his maiden first-team season, but he will need a more defensive-minded partner in the middle of the park.

Linked with Liverpool, Porto’s Alan Varela would be an excellent option. The 22-year-old, who has been likened to fellow Argentinian Javier Mascherano, has been outstanding for the Portuguese side since moving from Boca Juniors last summer.

A £60.4 million release clause means he wouldn’t be cheap, but United need a high-quality option in the position and a player with his best years ahead of him. Varela ticks all the boxes.

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Joshua Zirkzee

It has come to light recently via reports in the Italian press that striker Joshua Zirkzee – who has been valued at upwards of £50 million – has a £34.4 million release clause in his Bologna contract that will be active from July 1 until August 15.

Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee

The 6ft 4in Dutchman has been linked with United – as well as Arsenal, AC Milan and Juventus – for months after enjoying a stellar campaign with Thiago Motta’s Serie A high risers. The former Bayern Munich youngster scored 11 goals in 33 league games for the Rossoblu after a difficult first season with the club the year before.

United, of course, have Rasmus Hojlund at the point of their attack. The 21-year-old was himself signed from Serie A at great expense only last summer, arriving from Atalanta for £64million. But the Dane was burdened with too great a task in leading the line for an underperforming side and found himself on the bench for the season’s final weeks.

Zirkzee is stylistically different enough to act as both an alternative to Hojlund as well as a suitable strike partner for the United starlet.

Ian Maatsen

When fit, Luke Shaw has been one of United’s most consistent performers in recent seasons. But the England left-back’s career has been hampered by injuries and the 2023-24 campaign ended with the 28-year-old sidelined again.

If United wish to reinforce the left side of their defence in the transfer market this summer, it is difficult to imagine a better addition at a reasonable cost that Chelsea’s Ian Maatsen.

The Dutch full-back has spent the second half of the season on loan with Borussia Dortmund and he has impressed hugely in helping Eden Terzic’s side reach the Champions League final.

Able to play further forward as a winger, Maatsen is dynamic in attack, possessing speed and an excellent delivery from wide. Importantly, he is durable, too.

The 22-year-old has played at least 35 games in each of the last four seasons via loan spells in the second and third tiers.

While, ordinarily, convincing Chelsea to sell to a rival would be difficult, a £35 million release clause in his Stamford Bridge contract means this isn’t a concern with Maatsen. United would have to act quickly, though, as Dortmund and Manchester City are both reportedly keen to snap up the 17-cap Netherlands star.

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Jeremie Frimpong

In the wake of their FA Cup triumph, it has been reported that United are looking to sell right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with the former Crystal Palace star linked with a £10.2 million move to Inter Milan.

United paid a staggering £50 million for Wan-Bissaka in 2019 and the 26-year-old former England under-21 international has never quite developed the required attacking skillset to compliment his outstanding one-v-one defensive ability.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Jeremie Frimpong is on the opposite end of the spectrum to Wan-Bissaka in terms of skillset. The flying former Celtic star is a thrilling attacking force who has been unleashed at wing-back by Xabi Alonso this season, scoring an incredible 14 goals and providing 12 assists for the Bundesliga champions.

And the 23-year-old is available for just £34.4 million due to a release clause in his current deal.