Erik ten Hag rejected chance to sign Chelsea star instead of Lisandro Martinez

Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag reportedly snubbed the opportunity to sign Kalidou Koulibaly and five other defenders instead of Lisandro Martinez last summer.

Ten Hag made Ajax defender Martinez one of his main targets after leaving the Dutch team and signing a three-year contract at Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old coach signed Martinez for Ajax in 2019 and reunited with the centre-back in Manchester as the Red Devils completed a £57m deal.

Several pundits questioned whether Martinez could adapt to the Premier League but he has enjoyed a superb start to his United career, helping the club climb into the Champions League places.

Manchester United knew they needed to sign a new centre-back last summer window and presented Ten Hag with a seven-player shortlist, according to The Times.

It is claimed Koulibaly, who is now at Chelsea was on the list along with players like Pau Torres, Gvardiol and Alessandro Bastoni.

But Ten Hag passed up on the defenders in favour of a transfer move for Martinez, who last month celebrated a World Cup triumph with Argentina.

Martinez’s ability to play out from the back was very key for Ten Hag, who also wanted an aggressive left-footed central defender in his defence.

The Argentina international turns 25 next week and hopes to get an early birthday present on Saturday in the form of a derby win against Manchester City.

‘Yes, of course. It would be lovely to be able to enjoy it [my birthday],’ Martinez said in an interview with ICS. ‘But it’s a derby and you always have to try to win these games.’

While Martinez has been impressive at Old Trafford, Koulibaly has struggled at Chelsea after his £34m summer move from Napoli.

Discussing Koulibaly’s struggles at the London club, former Chelsea defender William Gallas said this week: ‘He is struggling at Chelsea because it is a different league and style.

‘To play in England and to play in Italy are two different things. Your team-mates are different. You are not the best defender in your team. In Napoli he was the best defender, at Chelsea, it is different.

‘You are not the main guy so you have to adapt. In my opinion, when you are coming from another league, you need at least one year to adapt, especially if you have family. So you need to adapt.’

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