Former Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has revealed that in his efforts to try and bring new blood to Old Trafford, he planned to being a number of megastars to the club – including Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, Sadio Mané, Sergio Ramos, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté.
The Dutchman rolled off an eye-watering shopping list of the world’s biggest stars in the Season Preview issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out on Wednesday, August 26.
Van Gaal took over United in 2014, a transition period following the dismissal of David Moyes, and just a year after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Though the club ended up bringing the likes of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria to bolster their attacking threat, Van Gaal told FourFourTwo that he was keen on an array of different players from across Europe.
“I wanted Robert Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead. Before I had arrived, I also spoke with the board about Neymar. If you are at United, you have to think big – he was also interesting for the club in terms of selling shirts, and I wanted to have quick wingers,” he said.
“For that reason, I also tried to get Sadio Mané and Riyad Mahrez. Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield, I wanted N’Golo Kanté. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multifunctional and possessed leadership skills.
“For the defence, I wanted Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels, because ours wasn’t the strongest in building from the back. Those were my top targets, but we couldn’t get any of them. I don’t know why, because as the manager I wasn’t involved in any negotiations.
“After I left, players like Mahrez and Kanté ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.”
Speaking in the season preview issue of FourFourTwo, Van Gaal said that he originally spoke with Manchester United execs about taking over the club in Belgium. Then manager of the Netherlands national side, he was promised a squad overhaul – but it didn’t quite meet his expectations.
“I met with them in Brussels – clubs often organise talks in foreign cities so the media can’t track them down easily,” van Gaal explained. “The Glazers and Ed Woodward were there – they asked me about everything, including my vision and how I would want to organise things, and said they would meet my needs for new players.
“I inherited an old team that hadn’t been refreshed for some time, and wanted to rejuvenate the squad with players who would bring the same kind of quality. But to get the ones I wanted proved very difficult.
“It surprised me, even though I understand that clubs hold out for the highest fee because they know United are the richest in the world. At the same time, though, if you are the richest, you’d expect to get what you want.
“But it didn’t happen: we only got third-, fourth- or fifth-choice players.”