The Manchester United press officer remarked that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was 'like Peter Pan'. Ibrahimovic said he was maturing 'like wine'. Ibrahimovic was 35-years-old and had tallied 16 goals in 25 games. He was marching around the concourse of The Hawthorns, the latest battle ground he had just conquered.
Edinson Cavani turned 34 on Valentine's Day and bloomed like a bunch of roses once the sun broke through again. He wilted in the winter and although the Manchester weather threatened to drive a wedge between player and club, it has given United a better understanding of Cavani's conditioning.
The matador charges around like a bull and is more mobile than Ibrahimovic was in 2016-17. Cavani could conceivably hack it in the Premier League beyond the forthcoming campaign but his second season is shaping up to be one last job before he takes passage back to South America.
This time next year, Cavani, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata may no longer be United players. They have a combined age of 96 and 518 United appearances between them, as well as World Cup, Copa America, Champions League and Europa League winners' medals tucked away. The trio have played in all but one of Europe's five major leagues.
United have offset their possible departures over the last 18 months, recruiting Bruno Fernandes, Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho, younger players lacking medals but with time on their side.
None of the aforementioned signings are a centre forward and that already has to be United's priority in next year's summer window. Cavani's renewal was especially convenient as Erling Haaland's release clause will become active next year, Harry Kane will be into the last two years of his Tottenham contract and, should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer favour another short-term fix, Robert Lewandowski may have under a year left at Bayern Munich. Kylian Mbappe, a generational talent, has to be sounded out even if he seems destined for Madrid.
Spurs had already privately decided not to sell Kane this summer prior to the development that Manchester City cannot financially justify a move for Kane if they acquire Jack Grealish. City have previously talked about never spending more than £65million for a player, a moral victory they are going to lose if or when Grealish is driven up the M6.
You do not have to work within the industry to wonder how City, targeted by Uefa for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations and still under investigation by the Premier League, could afford Grealish and Kane in a single summer. Minus net, that is a minimum investment of a quarter of a billion, which dwarfs any Gáláctico spree at Real Madrid.
City have had next to no matchday income for 17 months and posted a £126million loss for 2019-20. Der Spiegel would not have to do much digging if Kane and Grealish somehow became club colleagues.
Kane and his brother, Charlie, who represents him, naively put it all on blue this summer. United wanted a forward, not a striker and West London was always a no-go given the animosity between Chelsea and Spurs. City are pining for a centre forward.
Daniel Levy must have laughed like a hyena when Kane committed to a six-year contract at the age of 24 in 2018. Kane had not long been pocketed by Chris Smalling in the FA Cup semi-final, a defeat that finally brought some scrutiny on Mauricio Pochettino's inability to make Tottenham successful. Spurs have reached two finals since and failed to turn up in either. United won as much in Jose Mourinho's first season as Spurs have in the last 30 years.
Kane is only halfway through his contract and Spurs were confident of keeping him long before he told Mourinho of his intention to follow him out of the door as he packed his belongings. Spurs initially passed on new coach Nuno Espirito Santo, deemed too expensive and synonymous with an unattractive style of play, yet he is now effectively tasked with keeping Kane beyond next summer.
It is a tall order for Tottenham to break back into the top four and the likelihood is their £1billion stadium will go three years without hosting Champions League football. Kane turns 29 next year and cashing in then would be logical.
There are conflicting tales of Solskjaer's relationship with Haaland. The United manager says he still keeps in touch with the striker he mentored at Molde, whereas associates of Mino Raiola suggest there was an irreconcilable fallout over United's attempts to cut Raiola out of the proposed deal to sign Haaland in December 2019.
City explored a transfer for Haaland this summer, as well as Grealish. United also earmarked a move for Haaland until Cavani re-signed. Solskjaer and football director John Murtough are in agreement Haaland is the ideal number nine.
It would prolong a trend. Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku, previous United number nines, were represented by Raiola.
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