Manchester United join the race to sign the ‘new Kaka’

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With Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal set to be given a £150m budget this summer the Red Devils are continually being linked with big money moves for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

However, recent reports suggest that Van Gaal will add some fresh attacking blood without making too big a dent in his overall budget by swooping on the Bundesliga to sign a player dubbed “the new Kaka”.

Hoffenheim’s 23-year-old Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has been in impressive form since joining the club from Figueirense in 2011.

His performances in the 2013/14 season saw him smash 22 goals and chip in with 15 assists from 37 games, earning him the Bundesliga Breakthrough Player of the Season award.

Such performances have attracted admiring glances from the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal and United recently joined the race, sending scouts to watch Firmino in Hoffenheim’s recent 3-0 win over Hamburg.

The attacking midfielder, who can play up front, on the wing or in the number 10 role, is said to be valued at around £25m by his club but a clause in his contract means United could land the rising star for as little as £14.5m.

Firmino has bagged six goals and made seven assists so far this term, stats that make such a fee look a bargain – especially when compared with the return United have received on their expensive Radamel Falcao experiment.

Falcao’s Old Trafford stay looks set to be cut short at the end of the season with the 29-year-old Colombian scoring just four goals and playing in just 16 games since his deadline day loan arrival in the summer.

Firmino would arrive with far less fanfare and therefore pressure to perform instantly and would also leave Van Gaal with plenty of funds to plug the gaps in his midfield and defence.

Given the calibre of clubs also in the hunt for the Brazilian’s signature though, much will depend on United’s ability to offer Champions League football and their hopes would be given a huge boost if they can claim victory away at Liverpool this weekend, a feat the Red Devils are priced at 13/5 to achieve.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.