Herrara deal was never on but lawyers saga not over yet for Manchester United
Premier League champions embarrassed by farce even if it was not of their own making
Aguera Ander Herrera (left) in action for Athletic Bilbao against Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs in March, 2012. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA WIre
Manchester United’s failed attempt to sign Ander Herrera is not the only time the Premier League champions have experienced bizarre tactics at the top end of the market during a difficult, complicated transfer window that has brought criticism on the club.
United’s information is that earlier this summer a forged email, purporting to originate from Old Trafford and reputedly confirming their interest in a player, was sent to another club in an attempt to trigger a rival bid and ramp up the price.
That player has subsequently moved, for significant money, with the buying club under the false impression they were beating United to him.
The revelation is an insight into the tricks employed by clubs, agents and middle men before the transfer deadline.
However, it is the Herrera deal that has caused the most consternation behind the scenes at Old Trafford and, specifically, the role of the three lawyers who turned up at the offices of the Spanish league (the LFP) on Monday apparently purporting to have United’s authorisation to sign off the player’s €36 million buyout clause.
The club are aware that journalists have been briefed by sources at the Spanish league that the three men – identified as Rodrigo Garcia Lucas, Alvaro Reig Gurrea and Guillermo Gutierrez, from the Spanish law firm Laffer – were, in fact, operating officially on United’s behalf.
United’s position is that surely the only confirmation of this should come from Old Trafford and they have reiterated, categorically, they did not know of these men, recognise them or commission them.
United employ their own legal firm in Spain but did not mobilise it for one simple reason: no agreement was reached with Athletic Bilbao and they never had any intention of paying the full price when they valued Herrera €12 million lower.
Instead, the arrival of Laffer’s lawyers – credited with helping to arrange Javi Martinez’s transfer from Bilbao to Bayern Munich – created the impression the deal was imminent and led to a frenzy of speculation; the Bilbao paper El Correo compared the pursuit of Herrera to a Benny Hill sketch.
United’s version is more straightforward. Having followed Herrera for two years, they concluded he was worth around €24 million, their feeling being it would be another 18 months or so before he was a guaranteed first-team pick.
Bilbao insisted they wanted the full amount, no compromise was reached and that would have been it finished, in United’s opinion, until the television pictures of Laffer’s representatives led to the impression that an agreement was close – building up hopes for a deal that had already failed.
The Guardian last night contacted Laffer who, for reasons of professional confidentiality, declined to comment or to reveal the identity of their client.
Three days on, there is still confusion at Old Trafford about the involvement of the three lawyers and United feel so strongly about it they have been willing to put their position on the record.
Herrera has also, to a point, backed their story. “I do not feel used by United. How can I feel used? They made a formal offer. Athletic did not want to negotiate, I value that. They [United] had to pay the €36 million clause. I reached no agreement with United. I am proud they made an offer for me, and that Athletic wanted me [to stay]”
It is a confusing, complex and embarrassing issue for United, even if it is true it was not a farce of their own making.