Manchester United are ready to hand Zlatan Ibrahimovic a new contract after the Swedish superstar broke every Old Trafford fitness record.
Ibrahimovic signed a one-year deal, with an option of a further 12 months, when he joined on a Bosman free transfer from French champions Paris Saint-Germain in July.
But Sunday Mirror Sport understands the Red Devils are not only already preparing to take up that option – but will also offer an extra year on top in a package that would take the striker, who turns 35 next month, close to his 38th birthday.
And what’s more, United have also decided that Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are not the way forward for them.
A club insider described former Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG star Ibrahimovic as a “the kind of talisman not seen at the club since Eric Cantona.”
But while Ibrahimovic already exerts a huge influence in the Old Trafford dressing room, it is his brilliant physical condition that has left the club’s coaching staff astonished.
Ibra’s first promise when he arrived at the club was that he would break every training record – and he has been as good as his word.
In some instances, the Swede was posting times and distances between 15 per cent and 20 per cent better than team-mates who are 10 years younger than him.
One measured leap from a standing start left witnesses stunned
nother exercise to measure the power of his hamstrings had the same effect.
Ibrahimovic, who has enjoyed a long career free of serious injuries, was seen as a short-term cure for new boss Jose Mourinho when he teamed up again with his former Inter coach on a £250,000-a-week deal.
But the belief now is that he is in such great physical shape he can go on for a further two years after this season.
United are now planning to sit down with Ibrahimovic early in the New Year to discuss his future.
Meanwhile, the club has finally drawn a line under ever tempting Ronaldo back to Old Trafford and signing fellow global superstars Bale and Neymar.
United have been monitoring Ronaldo and Bale at Real Madrid, and even asked the Spanish giants to keep them informed of any developments regarding their former No 7 and Wales winger Bale.
But club insiders now expect both men to sign new long-term contracts in the coming months to stay at the Bernabeu.
Madrid’s failure to have their transfer ban overturned during the week prompted United to call off the chase for the duo.
The Reds have also been stunned by claims they were prepared to offer Neymar a £650,000-a-week package to leave Barcelona.
While they are prepared to break the bank to land a stellar name, they understand the Brazilian has been using their name to try to force Barca into offering him a deal to rival the terms handed to team-mate Lionel Messi and don’t believe Neymar has any genuine interest in moving to England.
After handing Mourinho £150m in the summer to buy Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly – as well as bankrolling Ibrahimovic’s £12m-a-year contract – United are not planning to do any incoming business in the January transfer market.