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Man United could sign their next Fernandes in £52m ace Nagelsmann calls ‘exceptional’

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If Bruno Fernandes had scored it, Manchester United supporters would have been replaying the goal until the rewind button had fallen off the remote control.

A talented and extremely self-confident attacking midfielder picks up the ball on the edge of the penalty area, nutmegs an onrushing defender and then chops inside another before curling a picture-perfect shot into the top corner of the net.

Was there a better goal scored during the March international break? Bruno Fernandes might have produced the better all-round performance – nothing short of phenomenal in a 5-2 shredding of Sweden in Guimaraes – but the goal scored by Manchester United’s £52 million summer target was one that would rival even the very best strikes produced by the Old Trafford skipper.

Julian Nagelsmann, a fine judge of potential, knew from almost the first minute he laid eyes on Dani Olmo that the La Masia graduate had something special. Even Nagelsmann, however, may have been taken aback by the sheer audacity and the skill involved in the goal Olmo scored during Spain’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Brazil earlier this week.

Fittingly, given the opposition in question, it was an effort that would not look out of place in a YouTube compilation of Ronaldinho’s best moments.

Dani Olmo of Spain celebrates a goal during the

Photo by Federico Titone/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Manchester United eye Spain star Dani Olmo

“(Olmo is) extremely hard-working,” Nagelsmann said during his time alongside Olmo at RB Leipzig back in 2020. “He has exceptional abilities and is very safe with the ball. When he gets put under pressure, he knows how to provoke a foul.”

Man United have long been over-reliant on their talismanic captain for creativity and cutting edge in the final third. Reports from the Daily Mail suggesting that Man United may consider triggering the £52 million release clause in Olmo’s contract, however, indicate that some steps are being taken to reduce the burden on their soon-to-be-30-year-old Iberian.

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Olmo, still only 25, shares a lot of similarities with Fernandes. Right down to a slight, marathon-runners build which belies the horsepower of a supercar. Olmo, while not quite as prolific as Fernandes was at Sporting Lisbon, is a pretty reliable source of goals from midfield.

He’s got seven for RB Leipzig during a stop-start, injury-hit season, hitting a hat-trick against Bayern Munich to extend Harry Kane’s trophy drought in the DFL Supercup. 

Olmo, Nagelsmann said, favours playing as a number ten with three others behind him in the midfield, using a diamond system favoured by his Leipzig predecessor – and former United interim boss Ralf Rangnick – to get the best out of a player who made the brave move from Barcelona to Dinamo Zagreb in favour of more first-team exposure as a youngster.

And, as you might expect given his teachings at Barcelona and Leipzig, Olmo is as comfortable without the ball as he is with it, a relentless runner and a fine presser.

A leader, a creator and a goalscorer

It is not only Olmo’s creativity, work-rate or goalscoring potential which lends itself to comparisons with Bruno Fernandes, however.

Like the Man United skipper, Olmo is a vocal and popular presence in the dressing room, his professionalism an inspiration for the Leipzig’s precocious young talent. 

“Dani Olmo is an outstanding footballer,” current RB boss Marco Rose said after that Bayern treble in Auugst. “The thing that impresses me even more, though, is how he drives the team on and helps the younger players.”

With his 30th birthday approaching, not even a footballer as indefatigable as Fernandes can defy Father Time forever. United’s interest in Dani Olmo could perhaps be seen as an acceptance of their skipper’s mortality.

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