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Bruno Soriano, centre, the Spain international at a cash-strapped Villarreal, is tactically mature and can also play as left-back.
Bruno Soriano, centre, the Spain international at a cash-strapped Villarreal, is tactically mature and can also play as left-back.

Ferguson looks to Spain for Manchester United midfield problems

Club's scouts have been focusing on Villarreal's Soriano and Bilbao's Martinez for a holding midfielder's position come January at the transfer window.

Sir Alex Ferguson is considering a foray in to the transfer market to reinforce a midfield that has become dangerously porous.

Concerned that Manchester United's young team has become "too open" in the centre of the park, he is monitoring a number of holding midfielders with a view to a January purchase.

Conscious of the success of Sergio Busquets as a playmaking pivot for Barcelona's three-man midfield, two similarly equipped Spain internationals have been repeatedly scouted - Bruno Soriano of Villarreal and Javi Martinez at Athletic Bilbao.

While neither Primera Liga club wish to sell individuals who have become central to their tactics, Bruno, 27, would be the more economical option.

Having been forced to reduce the budget by around 30 million (Dh153m) this season, Villarreal's plans to sell Giuseppe Rossi at the end of this season to raise funds have been compromised by an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered by the Italy striker.

Though Villarreal have so far resisted United's interest, considering Bruno a more difficult player to replace than the free-scoring Rossi, they would find an offer in the region of 15m difficult to ignore. Considered to be more tactically mature than Martinez, Bruno can also operate at left-back.

At 23, Martinez represents a younger, considerably more expensive option.

In contrast to the majority of Spain's chasing clubs, Bilbao are well-financed and will resist a sale for anything less than the player's 30m buyout clause.

Due to favourable local tax rates they are also in a position to offer Martinez a high net salary to remain with them.

Signed from Osasuna at age 17 for 6m before he had played a senior game, Martinez has established himself as the most important player at a club that limits itself to using individuals from the Basque countries.

In the summer of 2010, Bilbao turned down an offer of 20m from Bayern Munich for Martinez, who had been part of Spain's World Cup-winning squad and won the European Under 21 championship the following year.

Following United's 6-1 home defeat to Manchester City, Ferguson switched his team to a three-man central midfield, conceding that he required an extra man there to reduce the number of chances they had been offering opponents.

In subsequent victories over Everton, Otelul Galati and Sunderland yesterday, a lack of suitable personnel resulted in the short-term solution of starting Wayne Rooney in the midfield.

While bidding for Bruno would break United's recent policy of recruiting only players in their mid-20s or younger, Ferguson could justify a move by citing the starkly reduced average age of his present squad.

His scouting staff, though, has also been working on longer-term options with an inquiry made about the France youth international Geoffrey Kondogbia, who at the age of 18 has established himself in the first team of the French second-division side RC Lens this season.

The pressure on United to recruit externally has been intensified by overseas overtures in their own highly-regarded teenage midfielder, Paul Pogba.

The 18 year old has declined to extend an Old Trafford contract that expires at the end of the season when he would be free to join the likes of AC Milan on a Fifa-mandated "training compensation" transfer.

sports@thenational.ae

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