Is there anything more stereotypical of English football than a centre-back labelled ‘Slabhead’ by his teammates?
Well, that was an honour bestowed upon Harry Maguire over the summer, as the Englishman emerged as the Three Lions’ leading centre-back during the World Cup. The Leicester City centre-half rose to prominence thanks to his aggressive, tough-tackling style, while also becoming a more-than-viable set-piece threat due to his aerial prowess, height and sheer stature.
A trend has emerged in recent major international tournaments. Have a good summer, a move to a European elite tends to closely follow. Four years ago, James Rodriguez was unearthed. This year it’s a pair of centre-halves; Maguire and Yerry Mina. The former, is perfect to ply his trade at the highest level of football in his birth country. That’s where Manchester United comes in…
A tough career decision
Jose Mourinho has made a firm approach to sign the 25-year-old during the current transfer window, although United will have to act quick with less than two weeks until the deadline slams shut.
That leaves Maguire with an extremely tough career-choice to make. Does he follow his instincts and make the big-money move? Or will Slabhead remain loyal to Leicester? After all, they helped nurture him into the player he is today.
Let’s take a look at things from Leicester’s point-of-view. They’ve already lost Riyad Mahrez this summer, to resist fan furore, Claude Puel will be doing everything in his power to ensure Maguire remains with the Midlands club. Sometimes, though, managers are powerless in that regard; particularly if United come up with a blockbuster offer that the owners just simply cannot turn town.
For the Old Trafford club, we know how trigger-happy they’ve become when dipping their toes into the water. Paul Pogba cost £89million, Lukaku only slightly less. Do you think Edward Woodward will think twice about splashing £65million in someone who’d immediately become United’s best defender? I highly doubt it.
Player-power is stronger than ever in the modern-day game. If Maguire wants it badly enough, he could force his way out. Thankfully for Leicester, that’s just not in his DNA. If the move happens, I’m sure he’d welcome the opportunity with open arms, while relishing the chance to play alongside some of the best players on planet earth. But, if Puel manages to remain firm, Maguire won’t kick up any fuss, he’ll just get right back down to work and continue to show the world why he’s so highly sought-after.
You can see why United, namely Mourinho are chasing his signature so strongly. In four pre-season tour outings, the Manchester outfit have conceded six times, including four against fierce rivals Liverpool. That’s just so uncharacteristic for a team managed by the self-proclaimed Special One, particularly when you delve deeper into how sloppily the goals are being shipped.
Since his injury, Eric Bailly looks a shadow of his former self, whereas Victor Lindelof just doesn’t look ready despite a pretty solid World Cup himself… Then you have Chris Smalling who’s always got an error or two in him, and, Phil Jones, well, he’s Phil Jones…
Maguire would bring calmness to the table. Despite being young, he’s already a leader, both vocally and in his play-style. When winning possession back, United’s defenders tend to hoof the ball long and hope for the best, Leicester’s #15 can play a bit, too.
It’s not just in one area Maguire would make United better, he’d improve them in several aspects. The Englishman has already proven he can play in a back-three, so it’s no coincidence that Mourinho’s deployed that tactic in their last two outings since the interest in Maguire came to light.
For now, time is on Leicester’s side. United have been notoriously slow-movers in the transfer market under Woodward. That’s not going to change in the space of a fortnight. Puel will likely keep hold of his star defender. No doubt Maguire will go on to enjoy another stellar twelve months for both club and country.
Enjoy him while you can, though, Foxes fans. Be it United, or elsewhere, I’d be surprised if Maguire isn’t on the move by the time next summer rolls around; particularly as there is no major international tournament to give potential buying clubs even less time to push a deal through.