Man Utd transfer exclusive: Ten Hag keen on centre-back deal despite Liverpool, Tottenham being favourites to land £43m Napoli man

Eljif Elmas, Kim Min-jae Napoli

Trusted reporter Ben Jacobs has tipped Manchester United to be in the mix to sign a top Napoli centre-back this summer, although Liverpool and Tottenham remain the favourites for his signature for one very good reason.

South Korea star Kim Min-jae has been an outstanding presence for the runaway Serie A leaders since making a move from Fenerbahce for a fee in the region of just £16million in the summer of 2022.

At that time, Spurs were strongly tipped to land the international teammate of Son Heung-min but a deal never materialised and Napoli did a deal instead.

Kim has since emerged as one of the best defenders in Italian football. To that end, that has led to speculation once again that he could be on the move come the end of the season.

United are one of the clubs believed to be tracking the 26-year-old’s progress. However, Ben Jacobs has revealed why a move to Old Trafford may not happen this summer.

He told TEAMtalk: “Clubs looking at centre backs will inevitably be scouting Kim Min-jae.

“[Napoli boss] Luciano Spalletti has already termed him ‘one of the best centre-backs in the world’ and you only have to look at his form and intelligence and awareness to understand why and there are Premier League clubs looking for sure.

“Manchester United are in a difficult position with that type of player because he sees himself as a starting centre-back and they’ve obviously got Martinez and Varane there. But there’s other teams that are looking to drop somebody straight into their starting lineup.

“Tottenham are another club that have scouted the player and they would be looking to bring in a starting centre-back, as with Liverpool as well.

“And I think that that would give those two clubs a slight advantage over Manchester United, because if Erik ten Hag is going to play a back four and Varane and Martinez are fit, then it becomes extremely difficult to persuade a player in the form and with the potential of Kim Min-jae to go to Old Trafford over those two other clubs. Especially when you consider that he’s not an 18-year-old.

“He’s 26 years of age, so he will want regular and immediate game time. The other thing to point out in all of this is just that he only joined Napoli in July. So as a consequence, he’s played less than 35 games for the club at the time of recording.”

Napoli already exploring new Kim deal

Despite Kim’s links to the Premier League, Jacobs believes Napoli will still try and pull out all the stops to keep the player Spalletti absolutely loves.

He added: “All of that adds up to Napoli, come the end of the season, trying to change the terms and get an extension for some of the stars in order to protect their value and improve the terms.

“And with Kim Min-jae the contract I think is until June 2025. And there’s an option to extend for another two years. But there is a release clause for around £40-43million.

“So that might be seen, given his form, as quite a reasonable fee and that’s why the end of the season is going to be very important to see whether Napoli try to do anything with the contract to raise that number or change the terms. Because otherwise, even if Napoli don’t want to sell, there becomes a window of opportunity for Premier League clubs if they’re prepared to match that number.

“Indeed, a 26-year-old in great form like Kim might be seen as reasonable value for just over £40m. So that might give a Premier League suitor some kind of incentivization.”

One thing is for sure, if Kim does end up playing in England his performances for Napoli in Serie A and in the Champions League this season suggest he will be a sure-fire hit.

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