According to agent Matteo Materazzi’s statement given on Italian television, Manchester United are confirmed to be close to closing a deal for Kevin Strootman, a deal rumored to be in the works for some time now. Despite statements made by AS Roma president James Pallotta claiming that Strootman would not be leaving, indications are that the two clubs are “one step away” to a £32 million deal that would bring him to the Old Trafford in 2015.
Strootman is still recovering from injury, and some have suggested that Materazzi may have been referring to a deal being made after the season in the summer window once a full recovery had been made, but many believe that it is more likely that he was talking about the move being made in January. The timing of the interview in the middle of the swarms of rumors circulating about the deal point to a more immediate timetable for the United move. That said, watching the timetable this season of the injury and return to fitness of Radamel Falcao, United manager Louis van Gaal may be a little gun shy to pull the trigger on another rehab project with an uncertain timetable for a return to fitness.
Falcao may not be an ideal comparison, however, as there are some indications that fitness is not the only issue keeping him from significant playing time. Many believe that van Gaal may be preparing to offer him on the transfer market in January. Conflicting reports on his level of fitness have given rise to rumors of a rift between player and manager. Real or imagined, the fact that a lot of people are talking about it may make the prospect of another player like Strootman becoming the subject of ongoing discussion about a return to fitness might give the United manager pause.
It may well be that the Italian television interview was an attempt to advance the timetable on the deal in the face of Roma’s insistence that there would be none in January. Confirmation of the transfer rumors surrounding Strootman and Manchester United may get fans worked into a frenzy, but it is unlikely to pressure van Gaal or Roma management in any significant way. If, as they have stated, Roma is convinced that Strootman is key to them taking the lead in their league, it is hard to imagine them allowing the transfer before this summer. If the “one step” needed to complete the deal is convincing Pallotta to part with Strootman, it may be more like a giant leap.
Fitness questions aside, the confirmation has sparked renewed enthusiasm among United fans for the prospect of a January transfer window deal, and the rumors have not subsided. The prospect of seeing him on the pitch at Old Trafford is too tempting for many to relinquish hopes just yet. Whether a long-term project or a genuine prospect for this season, van Gaal and Strootman look bound to hook up eventually. As is always the case with United fans, though, the question is one of patience versus the desire to see the club regain their coveted place at the top of the Premier League.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Calcio Mercato – Flickr License