Less than a year after joining Manchester United in a reported £13m deal, there is speculation that Matteo Darmian could be on his way out of Old Trafford. Reports are suggesting that Jose Mourinho is prepared to allow Darmian to be a makeweight in a deal to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus.
Every transfer window invites creative journalists to link United with almost every player on the planet. The majority of the time they are wide of the mark. This week alone, you can read about United being in for Lionel Messi, whilst Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale have been the fantasy picks in the past. So the latest rumours regarding Pogba may just be fictitious.
United's Pogba interest very real
However, it appears that United's, and more pertinently Mourinho's, interest is genuine. James Robson, the Manchester Evening News journalist, tweeted that United had no interest in Pogba last summer, yet this year they are very much in the hunt. Indeed, many news sources are suggesting that United are going to use Darmian as a sweetener to bring the ex-United youth back.
A deal of this magnitude - the prices being quoted are record breaking - is not going to be easy to get over the line, but if Mourinho has identified Pogba as his top target, then it is likely that United will fight tooth and nail to get it done, despite the reported interest of Real Madrid. It would certainly send out a clear message that United mean business.
Even if the deal does not go through, if Mourinho is considering allowing Darmian to be part of any discussions then it doesn't bode well for the defender. He signed a four-year deal with United and to leave after only one season would be a disappointment all round. One question that springs to mind when considering this deal is why Darmian?
The biggest reason is that he would probably be a very tempting proposition for Juve. At right full-back, they have Stephan Lichsteiner and the young Daniele Rugani. Lichsteiner is a top player, but is also used in midfield, so Darmian would fit in nicely. The evergreen United legend Patrice Evra is at left back, having signed a new one-year deal, but Darmian could be seen as his successor. He can, of course, provide cover at centre-half, so would be very interesting for Juve.
Do United have enough cover to allow him to leave, though? At left back, they do without question. Luke Shaw and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson should have that position sewn up for years, but with Daley Blind and Marcus Rojo around there is more than enough cover. At right back, Darmian's sale would leave Antonio Valencia, Guillermo Varela, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah as the best options. That may leave United a bit short, unless Mourinho has something in the pipeline.
It would be surprising all the same, as Darmian seems very much in the Mourinho mould. At Porto, he had Paulo Ferreira, and he took him to Chelsea where he stayed for eight seasons. Latterly, he bought Cesar Azpilicueta, who has proved to be Chelsea's most consistent fullback on either flank. Darmian is similar to both in so much he is first and foremost solid defensively. He gets forward, but is by no means gung-ho.
Darmian can still show his worth
Still, Darmian has a chance to show Mourinho that he has a future at Old Trafford. With Euro 2016 about to kick off, Darmian is almost certain to be included in Italy's starting lineup as a left wing back as Antonio Conte, the incoming Chelsea boss, is a big fan. Italy have a tough group, and if Darmian can help them progress, then Mourinho may well be inclined to look to lure Pogba with cash only.