UPDATE: It’s finally officially official. Harry Maguire sets the transfer record for a defender at £80 million.
Who: Harry Maguire
From Where: Leicester City
To Where: Manchester United
For How Much: £80 million
Grade for Leicester City: B+
Grade for Manchester United: C+
Harry Maguire to Manchester United Overview
Is Harry Maguire the best center-back in the world?
Manchester United think so.
The Red Devils continue their off-season rebuild today by finally nabbing Leicester City center-back Maguire.
This is a tough one to grade for many reasons–and now having two weeks to digest the potential deal since it was first reported, we have new thoughts. Let’s just dive into it.
Who is he?
Maguire, 26, is a highly-regarded English national player and anchor in the back for Leicester City.
After coming up through Sheffield United as a youth, Maguire went to Hull City in 2014. Hull did something right in identifying defensive talent that year, as Maguire was signed with the world’s best left-back Andy Robertson (seriously, who was Hull’s lead scout there? 👏👏👏).
Maguire came to Leicester in 2017. He was a standout for England in the 2018 World Cup. He’s now the most expensive center-back in the world.
Is the price fair?
United (reportedly) paid almost double his transfermarkt value (listed at £45m last month). While it seems like *everyone’s* value is inflated this transfer period, of the notable transactions, Maguire has the biggest disparity.
Who was the highest paid defender before Maguire? That would be PFA Player of the Year, FIFA 20 cover boy, and Ballon D’or likely finalist Virgil van Dijk. VVD is the best center-back in the Premier League at worst, and the top #4 in the world at best. Just 18 months ago, Liverpool paid a then record fee of £75m for him.
He was worth every penny.
But to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle, “Harry, you’re no Virgil van Dijk.”
- VVD has a significantly higher ’18-19 overall rating than Maguire in the Premier League (7.44 to 7.01).
- VVD is more durable (38 domestic games to 31).
- VVD is more prolific using his massive noggin for goals (4 to 3). He also chipped in two assists to Maguire’s 0.
- VVD is a more accurate passer.
Sure, nobody is actually debating if Maguire is better than VVD. He’s not. But at that price–he should be in the same relative universe. He’s not.
Having said all of that…VVD has shown how transformative a world-class center-back can be. Maguire will not make Manchester United worse. He’ll improve their backline. More on that in the next section.
But back to that price.
The only other club with reported interest in Maguire was Manchester City. And that was awhile ago. If that’s the case, who was United bidding against? The just bent over and took it from Leicester.
In one summer, United made world record transfers for right-back in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and center-back in Harry Maguire. Neither are the best in the Premier League at their respective positions.
And they paid around £130 million for them.
This has to work. If United make the top 4 and qualify for the Champions League, fans of the Red Devils (and United’s board) won’t care. If they miss out…there will be blood.
What impact should we expect?
Manchester United finished sixth last campaign. They gave up 54 goals (and that’s with David de Gea between the sticks!).
Those 54 goals are 10 more than City and Liverpool combined. It’s also more than any of the other Big 6 last year. It’s more than the 7th-9th placed teams: Wolves (46), Everton (46) and Leicester (48).
So yes, along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United’s defense will improve. It can’t get much worse.
Maguire will help both defending and attacking set pieces as well.
Harry Maguire: Of the 290 players to contest 30 or more aerial duels, @HarryMaguire93— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 14, 2019
had a better aerial success rate (78.1%) than any other player in the Premier League last season
For more player stats — https://t.co/BSEYdcwLQN pic.twitter.com/4lTz6vNBTH
However, United were already the best at winning aerial duels in the Premier League last season. So that wasn’t necessarily an area of needed improvement.
United also had a reported £100m summer transfer budget. They will likely have to jettison Romelu Lukaku now. The Belgium is much-maligned at Old Trafford, but he’s a better goal scorer than he’s given credit. United will lose some offensive fire-power as a trade off.
With two weeks of hindsight, this is less tricky now to grade.
Manchester United (C+): Did United get a proven player in his prime? Yes. Will Maguire help stabilize United’s leaky defense? Yes. Was United bidding against anyone else? No. Did they pay too much? Yes. Will it matter if they sneak into the top 4? No.
It’s really about the price and the quality. Zero’ing in on Maguire when there are other center-backs in the Premier League of similar age and quality at half the price (Fabian Schär comes to mind) would’ve been a better use of funds.
Leicester City (B+): For Leicester, this is complicated. But I’ve ticked up their grade from a C+ to a B+. They stuck to their guns and took advantage of a desperate United.
There was noise about Maguire wanting out of Leicester. Ok, that’s a fair reason to move him if true. Here’s the thing though: are we so sure that Leicester wouldn’t have been better than United this year if Maguire stayed?
Leicester ended 2019 strong, closing the year right behind Liverpool and Manchester City in form. As we’ll write in our Premier League previews, this is the year someone will displace a Big 6 club for European qualification. Leicester was our most likely candidate to do so. There’s still a week to re-invest that money (and to be fair, they have been spending already). For fans of the Foxes, I hope they do.
If they don’t, they just handed their likely biggest obstacle to a top 6 finish an asset that might keep them out of European football.
Still, £80 is more than they’d receive in any scenario save making a finals run in the Champions League. They did well to extract maximum value with only one team making a serious bid.