Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat is a player that has been linked with a move away from Serie A for the last two seasons, but no transfer has materialised.
The 26-year-old has been on the watchlists of Tottenham, Barcelona and Liverpool, but for one reason or another those clubs have looked elsewhere.
Manchester United are the latest club to show an interest, and it is easy to see why. In fact, valued at just £30m, the Moroccan midfielder could be the perfect midfield addition for Erik ten Hag’s side, and the final piece of their jigsaw.
What would Amrabat bring to the Red Devils?
First of all, Amrabat will offer competitive versatility. The Moroccan is able to play either as a holding midfielder or slightly further forward to good effect, as he has demonstrated for La Viola since his arrival.
His arrival would allow Ten Hag some tactical flexibility too. Amrabat could form a double pivot with Casemiro in trickier away games, which could end their wretched run against other teams in the Premier League top half.
He could also reduce the workload on the now-31-year-old Brazilian midfielder, as well as offering competent cover during his periods on the sidelines (he missed seven games through suspension last season).
Amrabat is excellent at keeping the ball, with some of the best numbers around Europe when it comes to short, medium and long passing (more on that later), while he also dribbles plenty too, with around half of those headed towards the opposition goal.
Often paired with a more defensive-minded midfielder for La Viola, he is allowed to shirk his tackling duties (though he still manages nearly two per game) and he is rarely asked to advance too much (he provided just four shots on target across the whole of last season).
Though not the most well-rounded midfielder in world football, his specific skillset could come in very handy for Ten Hag’s side.
A perfect player to achieve Erik ten Hag’s goal
Speaking ahead of the new season, United boss Ten Hag made his goal for the new season very clear.
“We want to be the best transition team in the world”, he explained.
“We want to surprise, we want to play dynamic, we want to play with speed, we want to play aggressive, out of a very good team spirit, because that is United.”
To do that, the Red Devils will have to win the ball back high up the pitch, move the ball quickly (most likely through longer passes) and cover plenty of ground when they have lost it in order to win in back again.
All of these Amrabat excels in. As per FBref, he had the third-highest % of successful long passes in Serie A last season, completing 217 across the course of the campaign. By contrast, Bruno Fernandes completed just over 54% of his in the most recent season, attempting a massive 331.
It was not a fluke either, with the Moroccan ranking similarly highly prior to the most recent campaign, behind just Marcelo Brozovic and Fabian Ruiz.
Combined with the arrival of Andre Onana between the posts, it could make United much more dangerous with the likes of Marcus Rashford running in behind opposition defences.
Amrabat has an excellent engine too. Though he ranks a lowly 118th according to Serie A’s official distance covered rankings from last season, that is a more team-style issue than a personal fitness one. At the 2022 World Cup, no player covered more ground than the Moroccan (81.43km), an average of 11.6km per game.
Though he is a limited midfielder by modern standards, Amrabat is excellent at what he does and could prove a very astute addition to Ten Hag’s ranks, especially given their prior connection at Utrecht, where Ten Hag handed him his debut.
A hard-worker with an excellent eye for a pass and able to launch transition attacks, his arrival could be one of the final pieces to achieving the Manchester United managers’ dream.