Erik ten Hag snubbed chance to sign Chelsea star instead of Lisandro Martinez
Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag snubbed the chance to sign Kalidou Koulibaly and five other defenders instead of Lisandro Martinez last summer, according to reports.
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Ten Hag made Ajax defender Martinez one of his top targets after leaving the Dutch club and signing a three-year deal at Old Trafford.
The 52-year-old manager signed Martinez for Ajax in 2019 and reunited with the centre-back in Manchester as United completed a £57m deal.
Several pundits questioned whether the diminutive Martinez could adapt to the Premier League but the 24-year-old has enjoyed an impressive start to his United career, helping the Red Devils climb into the Champions League places.
Manchester United knew they needed to sign a new centre-back last summer and presented Ten Hag with a seven-player shortlist, according to The Times.
It is claimed Koulibaly – now at Chelsea – was on the list along with the likes of Pau Torres, Josko Gvardiol and Alessandro Bastoni.
But Ten Hag passed up on the defenders in favour of a move for Martinez, who last month celebrated a World Cup win with Argentina.
Martinez’s ability to play out from the back was key for Ten Hag, who also wanted an aggressive left-footed centre-back in his defence.
Argentina international Martinez turns 25 next week and hopes to get an early birthday present on Saturday in the form of a derby win against Manchester City.
‘Yes, of course. It would be lovely to be able to enjoy it [my birthday],’ Martinez said in an interview with ICS. ‘But it’s a derby and you always have to try to win these games.’
While Martinez is impressing at Old Trafford, Koulibaly has struggled at Chelsea following a £34m summer move from Napoli.
Discussing Koulibaly’s struggles at Stamford Bridge, former Chelsea defender William Gallas said earlier this week: ‘He is struggling at Chelsea because it is a different league and style.
‘To play in England and to play in Italy are two different things. Your team-mates are different. You are not the best defender in your team. In Napoli he was the best defender, at Chelsea, it is different.
‘You are not the main guy so you have to adapt. In my opinion, when you are coming from another league, you need at least one year to adapt, especially if you have family. So you need to adapt.’
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