Despite forking out £75 million for Romelu Lukaku in the summer, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is reportedly on the hunt for an additional striker in the January transfer window.
Lukaku has been heavily relied upon since his switch to Old Trafford, with only David De Gea (1980) and Nemanja Matic (1944) playing more Premier League minutes than the Belgium international (1814) under Mourinho this season.
"The boy is tired. He is physically a monster but not a machine and he is feeling it," Mourinho said of Lukaku before Manchester United's Premier League fixture against Southampton."The other day, I said [he had played] 19 matches in the Premier League; now I say 20 matches in the Premier League, 90 minutes. I think for a striker, any player, that's absolutely incredible." And the 24-year-old did indeed start for United in their final outing of 2017 but was forced off following a head clash after just 14 minutes, with Marcus Rashford taking his place.
Rashford, as well as Anthony Martial are fine understudies for Lukaku, with Jesse Lingard also able to operate in a centre-forward role. With Rashford woefully out of form, though, Martial more adept from wide positions, and Lingard flourishing just off of the focal point, Mourinho is on the hunt for a direct replacement for Lukaku, should he need him.
And while Mourinho has a ready-made swap in 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swede has made just one start this season due to a recurring knee injury.
“Zlatan needs sometimes very hard work on the muscle area that supports the knee that had the problem. When the period for that hard work comes, fatigue comes. To work really hard for a certain period of time he cannot play for these days, so we decide to do that. He's on this cycle of work divided between the gym and the pitch."
It's no wonder, then, that Mourinho has turned to Porto striker Moussa Marega.
The 26-year-old has scored 14 Primeira Liga goals this season in just 14 starts and two substitute appearances, while registering two assists for his Porto team-mates.
A product of his local side, French club Evry, Marega was handed his chance upon signing for third-division Amiens in 2013, where he would score nine goals in his debut season for the club.
He would eventually leave France for Portugal, joining Marítimo two seasons before Porto handed him a four-year deal with a €40 million buyout clause in place.
A quiet first season with the coastal side saw him shipped to Vitoria S.C. where he would score 14 goals in 31 games and earn a recall into the Porto first team and a route into the Mali national side.
Now, with only Bas Dost of Sporting and Jonas of Benfica ahead of him in the Primeira Liga goalscoring charts, a host of Premier League clubs are chasing his signature.
Marega offers a physical presence as a central striker but has the discipline to be deployed in the wide areas, having played either side of forward partner Vincent Aboubakar this term and notching two goals and two assists while starting on the left of attack. His versatility could be key to Mourinho's interest, with United already boasting a number of interchangeable frontmen.
The 26-year-old is marginally more accurate in his shooting than Lukaku - Marega has hit the target 29 times from 60 shots, with his United counterpart registering 28 shots on target from 62 attempts - though is heavily dependent on his right foot whereas Lukaku has displayed more variety in his attempts. His hold-up play, too, is something which could potentially help United to get up the pitch in a more meaningful manner, with the Porto man recording fewer unsuccessful touches than Lukaku, being dispossessed fewer times and holding a more efficient pass rate.
Another possible destination for Marega is Chelsea, where manager Antonio Conte will be looking to fill a Michy Batshuayi-sized hole once the Belgium international is sent on loan. The Italian has made no secret of Batshuayi's situation at Stamford Bridge, and the west London club likely look ready to make a loss on the £32m they paid for him initially.
Alvaro Morata, Chelsea's top scorer with 10 Premier League goals, requires back up, and Marega may just be the man to provide it. Marega is a far more explosive option than Morata and holds a number of traits which Conte requires as the head of a Plan B.
Wherever Marega ends up, if indeed a transfer is agreed in the January transfer window, it'll cost the buying club around £36m to complete the deal.