'Saul is a major player' - Ferdinand excited by Man Utd's links to Atletico 'conductor'

Rio Ferdinand has backed Manchester United to make a move for Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez, who he has described as the "conductor" in Diego Simeone's team.

Saul rose through the Atletico youth ranks before graduating to the senior squad in 2012, and has since racked up 284 appearances for the club across all competitions, scoring 39 goals.

The 25-year-old has helped Los Rojiblancos win five major trophies during that period, including two Europa League crowns and the Copa del Rey, while establishing himself as one of the most consistent performers in La Liga.

Atletico tied a prized asset down to a bumper nine-year contract in 2017, which is set to keep him at Wanda Metropolitano until 2026, but speculation over his future is starting to increase ahead of the summer transfer window.

United have been heavily linked with Saul in recent weeks, and are reportedly willing to trigger the midfielder's £135 million ($166m) release clause when the market reopens.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expected to make a number of changes to his squad later in the year, with a whole host of top players being touted as potential targets, including Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish and Leicester's James Maddison.

Ferdinand acknowledges the fact his old club are the constant subjects of transfer rumours, but also believes that Saul is a "major player" capable of adding a new dimension to any side.

"He’s another one, what a player. I’ve been harping on about Saul Niguez for a few years now," the ex-United defender said during an Instagram live video. "I think he’s a major player.

"Composed, calm, great left foot, lovely conductor, he can score goals, tactically he’s very aware.

"You can see Simeone, he gets his teams really well set up and he’s in the middle orchestrating and dictating things.

"Saul Niguez is huge and it’s come out in the papers this week that Man Utd are interested in him, but we’ll have to wait and see. Man Utd are linked to everyone."

UEFA is due to hold a video conference call on Wednesday to discuss whether the current dates for the summer transfer window will be retained amid the coronavirus pandemic which has seen the 2019-20 campaign called to a halt.

Remaining fixtures may have to be played throughout June and July, with it now being proposed that the window should be moved or extended while club sides complete their schedules.