The summer transfer window may not even be half a week old, but already clubs are making moves to ready themselves for next season. Manchester United are keen to strengthen their midfield and have already seen a bid for Mason Mount turned down by Chelsea.
While they are intent on pursuing that deal, it is believed that Erik ten Hag would welcome a second midfield signing, having seen his options last term wear thin beyond the immediate starters.
In order to facilitate rotation without a huge drop-off in quality – as well as numerous tactical options – Declan Rice has been mooted as ap possible arrival, with the Dutchman a keen admirer.
The West Ham United captain looks to be edging closer to a move, having made plain his ambitions to move on to a bigger club this summer. As reported by Fabrizio Romano, The Hammers have already identified his replacement, and are preparing their opening offer for Joao Palhina.
“West Ham are preparing their first approach for João Palhinha,” Romano tweeted. “Not an easy deal with Fulham but he’s top of the list for West Ham to replace Declan Rice.”
Manchester United look to have been beaten to the punch on the signing of Rice by Arsenal, who have been eager to sign the England star since January.
That will no doubt come as a blow to Ten Hag, although it would likely be an expected one, with United operating on a tight budget and in need of several reinforcements.
However, West Ham’s choice of replacement could make Romano’s update something of a double-whammy. United have been linked with Palhinha over the last few months, and the Portuguese international would certainly provide support for Casemiro were he to arrive at Old Trafford.
The Brazil stalwart has played practically every match for which he was available since coming into the team in October, often as the only player beyond the backline with much defensive inclination.
Palhinha would be able to rotate with Casemiro, 31, and also partner up with him for difficult matches away from home. Given Casemiro’s – somewhat surprisingly – effective offensive contributions last season, the Fulham midfielder could theoretically allow the Brazilian to attack the box with more regularity were they to play together.
The Cottagers are believed to value the 27-year-old at around £50m, having signing the player from Sporting Lisbon last summer for less than half of that.
Armed with a windfall from the sale of Declan Rice, West Ham would likely be able to wrap up a deal for Palhinha in short order, taking another good option off the market for Man United.
With Marco Silva having been spotted in deep conversation with Fred after the last match of the Premier League season, it would be no surprise to see Fulham turn their attentions to the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder to replace their midfield dynamo, who looks set to leave Craven Cottage regardless of West Ham’s interest.
Should Ten Hag decide that Palhinha is a necessary addition to his squad, that could prove to be a valuable bargaining chip in scuppering West Ham’s plans to replace Rice. Using Fred as a makeweight would also help United to stretch their transfer budget a little further while improving the overall quality of the side.