For months it has become increasingly evident that Manchester United would prioritise the overhaul of their defence in this summer’s transfer window. The January arrival of Alexis Sanchez ensured Jose Mourinho had sufficient strength in depth in his attacking ranks, but the backline has remained a long-term issue.
Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young – the back four who started the FA Cup final earlier this month – were all brought to the club by Sir Alex Ferguson, who left his position five years ago.
Eric Bailly has suffered injury problems, Luke Shaw has not progressed as was hoped and Victor Lindelof has not yet established himself in the first-team.
It would be no surprise if Shaw was to depart this summer, but the exit of Matteo Darmian to Juventus and the sale of Dutchman Daley Blind are expected to be processed in the coming months. This leaves United with money to spend on these positions, with Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld and Juventus left-back Alex Sandro both heavily linked.
Out of the blue
However, the first reinforcement at Old Trafford this summer has come out of the blue. Diogo Dalot has not yet completed his move to the Manchester club, but widespread reports indicate the transfer will be confirmed in the coming days.
If you have not heard of him before this point, it is because he has made just eight senior appearances for Portuguese champions FC Porto.
One of those outings came in this season’s Champions League tie at Anfield when the 19-year-old was played in a more unfamiliar left-back role as Os Dragoes kept a clean sheet in their eventual Round of 16 exit.
Indeed, Dalot’s rise to the top has been swift – he only made his debut for Porto’s B side in January 2017.
The full-back’s €20 million (£17 million) release clause has ensured he has been linked with a selection of Europe’s leading clubs, but his lack of first-team experience meant he was always likely to remain at Porto.
The club have enjoyed genuine strength in depth in that position, with Portugal international Ricardo Pereira starring in their run to the title – their first in five years – before agreeing a move to Leicester City.
Former Benfica captain and Uruguayan international Maxi Pereira is also adept in the right-back role, further limiting the teenager’s chances.
Dalot has represented Portugal from under-15 to under-21 level and is widely expected to make his debut for the senior team in their qualifying campaign for the 2020 European Championships.
Future household name?
It was thought Dalot would sign a new long-term deal at Porto following Pereira’s move to Leicester, but the swiftness of this deal appears to have taken them aback.
Quick, strong on the ball and providing an attacking threat, it should be no surprise that United have earmarked him as Antonio Valencia’s eventual successor.
For potential, character, personality, and many other things, he can go as far as he wants,
In my opinion, he can become the best full back of all in a few years. He has everything to achieve that, but he has to maintain the desire, the hunger that got him into the first team of a great club like FC Porto. In a few years' time, I would love to see Diogo being part of a FIFA Team of the Year. - Mexico international and former Porto teammate, Miguel Layuna, earlier this year.
He could well become a household name in the near future.