Ousmane Diomande, a potential transfer target for Manchester United.
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Maguire out, who in? Three centre-backs Manchester United should consider

Harry Maguire’s future at Manchester United remains uncertain after the defender’s £30m move to West Ham hit a roadblock.

United had agreed a £30m deal with West Ham for the former club captain, who has struggled to convince Erik ten Hag and earn a regular role in the side.

Maguire’s probable exit, coupled with Raphael Varane’s concerning injury record, has seen the centre-back position become an area of concern, with the latter’s absence in particular greatly noticed in the side’s defensive performances.

With that in mind, we’ve analysed three targets Manchester United could move for before the transfer deadline, using statistical data to profile each player and compare them with the club’s current options.


If the Red Devils are to return to the glory days of its past, then strength in depth is needed and the centre-back position is no different.

Three centre-back targets Manchester United should look at:

Jean – Clair Todibo – OGC Nice:

First on the list is Nice’s Jean-Clair Todibo. The 23-year-old has developed immensely since his move from Barcelona, signing on a permanent basis after a successful loan season and emerging as one of Europe’s hottest defensive prospects.

As demonstrated in the above graphic, Todibo’s main strengths are in his comfortability on the ball, regaining of possession, and dribbles attempted.


As well as good aerial ability, due to his 6ft 2in frame, it is his strength when in possession of the ball and passing ability that have caught many a club’s eye. Last season the defender completed 89% of his passes and this strength to distribute the ball from the back effectively is one that would fit into Erik ten Hag’s tactical plan at Manchester United.

Todibo’s confidence to carry the ball out and his passing range have seen comparisons made to current United defender, and fellow countryman, Raphael Varane.

To put his passing range into perspective, of the 646 short pass attempts he made last season, Todibo completed 614. In addition, when attempting passes over a longer range, he completed 161 of his 289 attempts.

In terms of ball progression, the Frenchman managed 153 progressive passes in last season’s Ligue 1. This figure is nearly double the amount of United’s most progressive centre-back, Lisandro Martinez, who managed 82 in his debut season with the club and over twice as many as Raphael Varane (63).

These numbers demonstrate the defender’s bravery on the ball and that Todibo has a broad passing range that benefitted his side. Whether his side have time to play out from the back, or are under pressure, Todibo is able to get the ball progressively up the pitch to get his team on the front foot.

Concentration and Defending:

The most important ability required in any defender is his ability to defend the goal and prevent the opposition from creating or taking chances.

In Ligue 1 last season, Todibo managed a tackle success rate of 73.2%, higher than both Martinez (69.8%) and Varane (41.2%) managed for Manchester United last season.

The Frenchman also averaged 2.3 tackles per game in Ligue 1 last season, a statistic which ranked him in the 90th percentile of centre-backs across Europe’s top five leagues. It is a statistic comparable to the numbers Martinez posted, with the combative Argentine averaging 2.49 tackles per 90.

Ousmane Diomande – Sporting Lisbon

When it comes to defenders that have all the attributes to become top level, Sporting Lisbon teenager Ousmane Diomande is right up there. The 19-year-old signed for the Portuguese giants in January and was more than impressive in the 13 league appearances he made in 2022/23.


Diomande also has a high pass completion rate as he averaged between 92 – 94% in medium and short passes, with a 70.2% long ball completion rate according to FBREF.com.

The Ivorian completed 66 of his 94 attempts over longer range. While the sample size is significantly smaller than those compared, it is a higher completion rate than both Martinez and Varane. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Todibo managed 55.7% completion in long ball passes.

Similarly to Todibo, Diomande ranks highly in progressive passing, demonstrating in his early appearances for Sporting a comfortability with the ball at his feet and progressing it forward from the defensive third.

The Ivorian managed a 94% pass accuracy in his own half, but also retained high levels in the opposition half with an 86% completion rate.

In Diomande, United would have a centre-back who is confident to bring the ball out from the back, start attacks, and who is accurate in his distribution.

Defensive steel:

Diomande had a tackle success rate of 52.6% (13 out of 22 tackle duels) in the league last season, which is less than both Todibo and Martinez but higher than that of Varane. However, it is again worth noting that the young defender played less games than all three centre-backs and was adapting to the demands of a new league.

Mohamed Simakan – RB Leipzig

Our third suggestion for a potential right-sided centre-back that Manchester United should consider is RB Leipzig’s Mohamed Simakan. Seen as an important component in Leipzig’s third-place finish in the Bundesliga last season, Simakan is one of the best emerging defenders in Europe and he stands out for three key reasons – intelligence, composure, mobility.

Below is a percentile chart, comparing the defender with those in Europe’s top leagues:

From this chart, you can see that Simakan scores in the high percentiles for many areas. He ranked in the 70th percentile or higher for both possession won and aerials won – a key sign of his high calibre defending.


According to FBREF.com, the Frenchman managed a 66.7% success rate in tackling dribblers, which is slightly less than Lisandro Martinez and Jean-Clair Todibo, but higher than both Diomande and Varane respectively. This is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Simakan’s defending, as he has great poise in defensive actions, particularly in one-on-one duels. Simakan’s impressive and quick footwork allows him to close the space quickly without over-committing into the tackle.

Simakan’s aerial ability is also strong, with a 61% success rate in aerial duels. This figure is higher than all apart from Varane (72%) and is something that United lack when it comes clearing crosses in and around the box.

Similarly, the 23-year-old managed over a 50% success rate in ground duels, but while appearing modest on first impression, it is important to note that Simakan’s quickness in reading the game and overall intelligence on the pitch meant he was involved in more interceptions than tackles.

Overall, Simakan’s defensive game is well-rounded. He’s good in the air but can also step up to intercept a pass and engage in physical contact, or drop off to cover a run and sweep up behind the defensive line.

Embed from Getty Images

Passing and composure:

Other than being a solid out-and-out defender, Simakan is also very comfortable and calm on the ball which is a trait that would cater to Ten Hag’s Manchester United well.

Last season the Frenchman averaged an 81% pass completion rate per game, with 901 completed passes out of 1008 attempts. Overall, the centre-back managed an 88% pass rate in his own half, plus a 77% rate in the opposition’s half. This statistic shows that, like the aforementioned choices before, Simakan can pick a pass and is very rarely one to give the ball away, which is a common theme in the centre-back choices selected.

In terms of his range of passing, the Frenchman averaged over 80% in his short (88.8%) and medium (85.4%) range passing but is not in the same class as both Todibo and Diomande when it comes to his long ball success, with just 54.2% completion. However, this is not necessarily a detriment to the defender as his style has been moulded by his time in the Bundesliga and the Leipzig’s shorter-passing brand of football.

Finally, when it comes to showing the defender’s composure on the ball, Simakan saw most of his touches take place in the middle of the pitch, as opposed to the defensive third. This is due to his experience of playing a high line and being able to deal with danger in higher areas.

Simakan saw 668 of his 1301 touches take place in this zone of the pitch, which is something that would fit very well into the defensive style and structure that Ten Hag is building ahead of his second season at the helm.

Read – Why Premier League clubs are spending insane transfer fees on midfielders

Read Also – Six of the best Premier League free transfers this summer

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