Tag Transfers

Tag Transfers

United to go for Huntelaar? But better with Young

July 8, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion 13 comments

While Rant rarely engages in idle gossip, newspaper reports have once again linked United with a £20 million move for Real Madrid outcast Klass-Jan Huntelaar. It’s not the first time that the club has apparently expressed an interest in the former Ajax player, who scored eight goals in 20 games for for the Spanish club last season. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson had reportedly been tracking the striker before his £19 million move to Madrid in January.

However, the arrival at Real of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká and Karim Benzema this summer means that Huntelaar will be available for transfer, just six months after moving to Spain. The forward, who has scored 13 goals in 23 appearances for the Dutch national team, has become a victim of President Florentino Perez’ bank-loan inspired revolution at Real.

The question is, do United really need another central striker? That is not to doubt Huntelaar’s quality as a goalscorer, who’s record at international and club level is better than a goal every other game. But with Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen now at the club, there would seem to be little room for another forward. Indeed, there was really little point bringing Owen into the squad if Ferguson is also after Huntelaar as both occupy the same role. This argument is even more pertinent when youngsters Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda are brought into the equation.

At the same time, the club has also been linked with a £25 million move for Aston Villa’s excellent winger Ashley Young. The former Watford wide-man has progressed immensely in the past two seasons to become a regular in Fabio Capello’s England team. However, for a player who is unproven at international or Champions League level, Young would cost a fortune. Primarily because United would be shopping at one of the league’s leading teams, but also because there’s always a premium on English talent.

But United are weak in wide areas, despite having Ryan Giggs, Nani, Zoran Tošić, Ji-Sung Park, and new signings Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan in the squad. Serbian wonderkid Adem Ljajić is also due to join the club in January 2010. But Giggs aside none are proven at the highest level, and unfortunately the legendary Welshman is in the twilight of his career.

Together with Valencia, Young would add extreme pace in wide areas – something United will lack through the middle of the park next season. While Tošić, Ljajić and Obertan may well prove themselves in the long term, nothing is guaranteed. Park, meanwhile, deserves his place in the squad as a willing worker but is never going to win a game on his own. Nani is in the last chance saloon.

Young, although frighteningly expensive, will be available if he expresses his desire to leave and does have the requisite quality to make a real difference at the top level. He would surely be a better use of more than £20 million.

United stocks up on more kids

July 6, 2009 Tags: Opinion 1 comment

The headlines have been dominated by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez this summer. Then Sir Alex Ferguson pulled the biggest suprise of the close season with the acquisition of aging Scouser, and former England international Michael Owen. But work behind the scenes has largely focused on recruiting the next generation of United stars, with Charlton Athletic’s Sean McGinty (15), Girondins de Bordeaux’ Gabriel Obertan (20) and Empoli’s Alberto Massacci (16) joining the club.

McGinty, a centre-half, has been capped at under-17 level by Ireland, with United reportedly reacheing an agreement for a compensation package with Charlton for the youngster. The 15 year-old was apparently offered a scholarship at The Valley, but rejected it in favour of a switch to Old Trafford. He is likely to move North with entire family.

Right-back Massacci is unlikely to cost United much, if anything, as an under-18 international transfer. The player himself broke the news of the impending transfer to United by claiming that Ferguson had personally called him to offer him a deal.

“When they called me, I really couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I didn’t believe that it was really him (Ferguson) on the phone.”

“I had an hour-long chat with him, in English. He seemed to me a modest, simple, incredible person. In life a chance like this only comes past you once, and you’ve got to grab it with both hands,” he added.

Winger Obertan, who has been capped eight times at under-21 level by France, will join from Laurent Blanc managed French champions Bordeaux. The player has appeared 77 times for Bordeaux, scoring four goals, although the vast majority of those games have come from the bench. The player spent the second half of last season on-loan at Lorient and can operate on the left-wing or up-front. He also scored against England under-21s in a friendly at the City Ground in March 2009.

“There is a very strong likelihood that the deal will go ahead,” said Bordeaux President Jean-Louis Triaud.

“Manchester United want to sign him and, for our part, we would be delighted to see Gabriel playing for such a prestigious club. We will make the official announcement when the time is right.”

Arsenal, Inter and AC Milan are all believed to have been interested in Obertan, but United moved first and has reportedly had a deal in place for several weeks.

The summer recruitment continues a policy that has seen the acquisition of Rafael and Fabio da Silva, Rodrigo Possebon, Federico Macheda, Davide Petrucci, Joshua King, Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Etzaz Hussain from overseas in recent seasons.

While the policy reflects the global nature of the football transfer market, it is also symptomatic of an outdated Football Association rule that bars United from signing youth players more than 90 minutes drive away. McGinty’s transfer goes ahead because the club has agreed a compensation package with Charlton.

But the rule will continue to encourage United, as well as other top clubs, to look abroad for the best talent or risk falling behind. And with transfer fees currently stratospheric, who can blame the club for seeking to hoover up the world’s leading youth talent?

United’s new ‘youth policy’

June 17, 2009 Tags: Opinion 7 comments

A story broken in the Manchester Evening News, and followed-up by The Guardian and Independent this week have suggested that United are embarking on a under-26s only recruiment policy. The strategy, which comes into effect this summer, means that United will not recruit players 26 and over for large transfer fees that they cannot expect to recoup further down the line. It is a policy that ensures United are out of the running for David Villa and Franck Ribéry, as well as Kaká for whom they did not make a bid.

The policy, according to reports, is aimed at maximising the potential re-sale value of recruited players, which degrades markedly once a player passes 30. But it begs a question: if re-sale value is of greater importance in player recruitment than on-the-field ability, are United now a selling club?

In truth, Dimitar Berbatov aside, United’s recent recruitment policy has focussed on youth anyway. This is underscored by the acquisitions (at no little expense) of Anderson and Nani in the summer of 2007, together with the controversial aggressive recruitment of youth team players from oversees, including Federico Macheda, Davide Petrucci, Rodrigo Possebon and the Da Silva brothers.

But buying young is also a policy that comes with risk, as any supporter following Nani can attest. The £17 million that United spent on recruiting the winger is lost forever unless the former Sporting Lisbon player demonstrates a marked improvement in form next season. Moreover, Arsenal supporters will point to the destabilising effect that a ‘buy young’ strategy can have on the team. With Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar facing potential retirement in 2010, United could be shorn of significant experience in years to come.

More worrying still is what the new strategy says about the long term state of United’s finances. In the light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale to Real Madrid this month, the plan has an undertone of long-term debt service. In essence the club’s policy says ‘we will not buy players whom we cannot sell on’. While this may be sound business policy, it is not necessarily the right policy for the good of the team. Significantly, it also means that United expect to sell players on in the future, rather than retain their services past 30. The gold medal scenario for United’s management hierarchy is then that of Ronaldo; buy low, sell (very) high.

In light of United’s huge £699 million corporate debt buying low to sell high in the future is a scenario that makes short-term business sense. The risk, however, is that United recruit too many failures – players with talent that is never fulfilled. Without proven talent coming into the club, United run the risk in the long term of degrading the team’s on-the-field success. With silverware comes sponsorship dollars, without there are none. And where’s the financial sense in that?