Manchester United could make Liverpool transfer impossible despite cut-price £12.9m fee

When Liverpool started to plot their midfield revamp last summer, all eyes were on the European Under-21 Championship.

The Reds already had Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott representing England in Romania and Georgia, with the former proving to be one of the stars of the tournament as the young Lions were crowned champions of Europe, but they weren’t the only players on the club’s radar.

While Romeo Lavia would withdraw from the Belgium squad because of injury, Liverpool eyes were still monitoring Gabri Veiga, Manu Kone, Khephren Thuram and Ryan Gravenberch. Also in the market for a new centre-back, Micky van de Ven and Levi Colwill also emerged as players of interest.

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The Reds had already agreed a deal to sign Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton & Hove Albion prior to the tournament getting underway, while it soon emerged they would have to be patient if they wished to sign Gravenberch from Bayern Munich. The Dutchman belatedly became Liverpool’s fourth and final summer signing on deadline day after long standing interest, dating back to his time at Ajax, and contact with representatives throughout the calendar year.

“We knew there was a chance for Ryan,” Jurgen Klopp would later admit to supporters when reflecting on how the Reds’ summer progressed. Yet rather than see interest accelerate for any of the aforementioned midfield starlets as June turned to July, instead it wavered. When Liverpool activated Dominik Szoboszlai’s £60m release clause in his RB Leipzig contract, their engine-room business appeared to be done.

But then Jordan Henderson and Fabinho completed unexpected, lucrative switches to Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the Reds sacrificed signing a new centre-back in favour of pursuing additional midfielders. By this point, Van den Ven was deemed too pricey, Colwill was not made available for transfer by Chelsea ahead of signing a new contract, and Reds boss Klopp decided academy graduate Jarell Quansah could instead fill such a void courtesy of an impressive pre-season.

Evidently, a new holding midfielder was still required as Liverpool missed out on the likes of Moises Caicedo, Lavia and Andre Trindade. Eventually, they would complete the curve-ball acquisition of Wataru Endo from VfB Stuttgart, with a £16.2m fee justifying the then eyebrow-raising decision to land the Japan captain, aged the wrong side of 30, from the Bundesliga strugglers. At the very least, he would not block the pathway of the highly-rated Stefan Bajcetic.

Yet fast forward to the end of the season and despite his impressive maiden campaign at Anfield from Endo, the Reds are arguably back where they started. Bajcetic might be back from injury heading into the summer with Mac Allister able to fill in to a satisfactory level on occasions, but having seen Rodri and Declan Rice play decisive roles of Manchester City and Arsenal this season, onlookers are adamant Liverpool need a world class defensive enforcer of their own.

Which is where Thuram’s name has re-entered those of a Reds persuasion’s stratosphere, a year on from that initial interest in the one-time France international.

Reports in France claim the 23-year-old, son of France legend Lilian Thuram, could be available for a cut-price fee this summer, to prick those onlooking Liverpool ears further. With a year left on his contract, injuries have limited his impact this season with the midfielder unable to kick on despite making a further 27 appearances for the Ligue 1 club.

With the Allianz Riviera said to have started to turn on the Frenchman as a result, subjecting him to whistles, Nice-Matin claim Thuram could be available for as little as £12.9m this summer, suggesting he will command a €15m-€20m asking price, with Nice preferring to cash in rather than risk losing him on a free transfer in 2025. Such figures are considerably lower than the touted £34m demanded last summer, which Liverpool reportedly considered too expensive at the time.

The Reds could well be in the market for a new midfielder this summer, with Thiago Alcantara set to depart on a free transfer at the end of his contract. But despite being available for a lesser fee, that will not necessarily be enough to prompt Liverpool to revisit previous interest in Thuram.

For starters, while he can play as a holding midfielder, he has predominantly been used further forward by Nice this season. A patchy injury record and inconsistent season should also act as potential red flags for a player the Reds decided against moving after, along with a host of top European clubs, last summer. They all came to that decision for a reason, with the Ligue 1 club’s desire to sell him now hardly presenting him as a sought-after product.

However, there is one additional complication regardless of Liverpool’s stance - Manchester United.

HITC reported last month that INEOS are considering the business that can be done between United and Nice ahead of the summer’s transfer window, with Thuram one of the players said to be under consideration at Old Trafford.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe owns INEOS, with his company in turn owning and sponsoring Nice. Having become a shareholder in Man United earlier this season, while also agreeing a deal to take control of football operations from the Glazer family, any dealings between the two clubs would be logical as a result.

HITC claim that Thuram ‘intrigues’ a number of people at United and is under consideration ahead of the transfer window as a result. Meanwhile, the Red Devils are expected to make changes in midfield this summer, with the likes of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek, along with loanee Sofyan Amrabat, all tipped to depart.

If United really want to sign Thuram this summer, it would be a surprise if they were not successful considering Ratcliffe and INEOS’ involvement in both clubs. Yet even if the Red Devils didn’t pursue the midfielder, their own bitter relationship with Liverpool could arguably complicate any negotiations for the midfielder.

After all, while a businessman first, why would Ratcliffe want to strengthen one of his own club’s rivals, their fiercest foes no less, by selling them a player for a supposed discounted fee? Put it this way, put any United or Liverpool supporter in his shoes and you know exactly what their gloriously petty transfer stance would be!

There hasn’t been a direct transfer between Liverpool and Manchester United since 1964 after all, with Sir Alex Ferguson infamously blocking Gabriel Heinze’s efforts to join the Reds in 2007. Now 60 years on and such transfers have become impossible. Meanwhile, both Paul Ince and Michael Owen damaged their relations with their former clubs beyond repair when crossing that uncrossable divide, albeit indirectly.

Whether such a stance will extend to sister clubs remains to be seen. Liverpool would have to test Nice’s resolve for Thuram to find out, but given Ratcliffe’s involvement in both clubs, it could well be enough to extinguish any slim chance of the Reds reigniting their interest anyway - regardless of any bargain fee.