Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been dealt a setback in his pursuit of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly for a mid-season transfer, according to The Times.

The Portuguese boss reportedly wants to bring in the centre-half to tighten up a leaky defence, but the Old Trafford hierarchy may baulk at the Serie A club’s quoted fee of £90 million plus.

Koulibaly signed a new deal with the Naples-based side in the summer which ties him down until 2023, so it was always going to take an enormous sum to prise him away.

Senior United officials have met with their Italian counterparts to try to hash out a deal, but it is thought that owner Aurelio De Laurentiis sees the Senegal international as an integral member of the squad and will fight tooth and nail to keep him at the club.

And although Mourinho has repeatedly bemoaned a lack of defensive signings this term as his side have struggled for form, critics will be quick to point out that he had previously splashed out on two centre-halves, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, for a combined total of around £60 million.

There is also the matter of his transfer record at United as a whole, having landed both Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku for money similar to that being touted for Koulibaly, without the kind of return expected for that price.

Saturday’s win over Fulham was only their sixth in the opening 16 matches of the Premier League campaign, a streak which sees them way off the pace of the leading pack and struggling to keep up in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Fans have become increasingly concerned about the style of play under Mourinho, with many pleading for a return to the ‘United way’ of pacey, attacking football.

Koulibaly’s class both on and off the ball means he would doubtless improve the defensive side of the team, but whether a move will be sanctioned appears up in the air.


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