What United fans can learn from the failed transfers of Lucas and Hazard

After the Lucas Moura and Eden Hazard transfer fiascoes last summer, Manchester United have faced a similar catastrophe this term as Spain international Thiago Alcantara, who had previously agreed personal terms with the Red Devils, has decided to make a move to the Allianz Arena instead.

The words of Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola at his presser, “It is either Thiago or nothing” still echo in the ears of the Old Trafford faithful as United endure another failed transfer.

Although the Red Devils have missed out on several transfer targets over the past few years, we take a look at the failed pursuits of Lucas and Hazard to analyse what’s exactly going wrong at the Theatre of Dreams.

Lucas Moura

What Happened?

After having missed out on Eden Hazard, Sir Alex Ferguson identified Lucas as the attacking midfielder to link up with Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa at United.

Having tracked the player for a couple of months, Fergie was convinced of Lucas’s potential and subsequently opened negotiations with Sao Paulo.

United’s initial bid of €32 million bid was turned down, while an improved offer of €38m was also rebuffed by the Brazilian club.

But the Red Devils continued to hold talks for a potential move, with Fergie even confirming in public, the club’s intentions to sign Lucas.

United eventually got the breakthrough, as can been derived from the quotes of Lucas’s agent, Wagner Ribeiro, after the player’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“Everything was agreed between Sao Paulo and Manchester United,” Ribeiro told UOL. “The contract had been written and just needed to be signed…”

As just mentioned above, the filthy rich Paris Saint-Germain intervened and out-muscled United financially.

Lucas agreed to join PSG for a sum of €45m and a better wage package as compared to that offered by United.

Why it came crashing down?

Sao Paulo preferred PSG’s bid as they were getting more money from the Ligue 1 giants but Lucas could have still chosen United as both the clubs had had their bids accepted and were entitled to hold talks with the attacking-midfielder.

However, PSG offered better wages, the demanded £6m agent fees and further money to the player’s relatives.

Ferguson ridiculed the ludicrous money paid by PSG, stating, “When somebody’s paying 45 million euros (£35m) for a 19-year-old boy you have to say the game’s gone mad. I find it quite amazing”.

Money was the prime reason, even though there were also some other theories:

  • The Brazilian forces at PSG, Thiago Silva and Leonardo , would’ve helped Lucas to adapt to the lifestyle in Paris- United had their own Brazilian contingent who could have facilitated Lucas, albeit he could have preferred to play with Silva after the Olympics.
  • Paris is a more “pleasant city” than Manchester-Manchester’s lifestyle surely isn’t that bad to put off a player from plying trades there. And the great Mario Balotelli will surely beg to differ with such claims.
  • PSG allowed Lucas to make the transfer at the end of the year- Valid statement, but if this was such a big issue then why did Lucas agree the transfer in principle in the first place.

Eventually even the player agreed on the money issue, saying, “…PSG’s terms were better.”

Eden Hazard

What Happened?

Last summer, Eden Hazard was the most sought-after youngster in world football. Lille demanded £32m for their prized asset and the trio of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea delved into the demands of the French club.

Ferguson held a personal conversation with Hazard and even took him to a stadium tour.

But the deal never materialized.

Why it came crashing down?

United were blown out of the water by the financial prowess of Chelsea. Fergie’s influence and talks with Hazard had put United in the driving seat for the Belgium international’s signature but the Red Devils refused to meet his astronomical wage demands and the agent’s fees.

They were not prepared to offer more than £130,000-a-week, while at Chelsea, Hazard is earning £185,000-a-week. Moreover, Hazard’s agent got a whooping cheque of £6m from Roman Abramovich.

Conclusion from the Two Sagas:

I believe the reason why we missed out on two highly-talented youngsters last year was because of Ferguson’s footballing ethos, United’s weak financial status, and United’s lack of talents in the team.

Fergie’s Ethos

If United were debt free and Ferguson had optimum freedom to shelve £40m to sign Hazard, I don’t think so he would have done so.

The Scot has always believed in nurturing young talents and disliked those guided by the money-making motive.

Moreover, the 71-year-old has also spoken against the “greedy” agents in the past and it’s virtually impossible to imagine him paying £6m in agent fees alone.

Yes, Rooney was purchased for £28.6m when he was just 18 years old, but his wages crossed £185,000 only after he had spent six seasons at the club and United weren’t required to pay any hefty commissions to the middlemen during the transfer negotiations.

No matter what, Ferguson never over-spent unless he found a special or an extraordinary talent. Rooney was such an exception, Hazard and Lucas weren’t.

When I asked Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Max Towle about his views regarding why United missed out on Hazard and Lucas in a personal conversation, he held a similar viewpoint.

“Manchester United don’t want to seem like a club that pays over-the-odds for young talent. The club is based on the idea that young players have to prove themselves at the top level before they can be put on that pedestal.

In Hazard’s case, we put an offer on the table which was generous, but not excessive, and Chelsea simply offered the player more. Similar situation with Lucas. The player was all set to come to Old Trafford but PSG threw X millions more at him and he couldn’t say no.

The case of Rooney I think was Sir Alex just saying “There is no way we are not getting this player” – he was an exception to the financial structure of United, just like Robin van Persie was last summer.”

Weak Financial Status

There’s another theory to believe- even if Ferguson would’ve thought that either Lucas or Hazard was worth the humongous money (like Rooney was), United wouldn’t have been able to provide the gaffer with the required funds.

The Glazers have put United in a fix since taking over the club in 2005 and the Red Devils can’t make gamble buys anymore.

After all, Lucas and Hazard were largely unproven players before moving to PSG and Chelsea respectively.

If a big transfer fails to yield the required results, it can imbalance United’s financial structure as the club’s debt will worsen.

Many argue van Persie was a risky signing due to his injury issues. The truth is, the Flying Dutchman was a proven goal-scorer who was on a rich streak of scoring form and not motivated by money.

In addition, after having missed out on Lucas and Hazard, van Persie was the final “marquee” transfer signing available for Ferguson.

————

I contacted United expert Doron Salomon for some input and he agrees with the above two points.

“There’s no doubt that United can’t compete in monetary terms at the very top – Chelsea, City, Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Monaco are all in a different league in that respect. There’s also no doubt that United won’t ever be bullied into paying over the odds for a player in terms of fee, wages and agent fee.

United aren’t the only club to have suffered in that respect though – Arsenal have missed out on quite a few players due to be unwilling to pay high agent fees for example.”

Lack of talents

Although the “Fergie factor” elevated United’s performances, talent-wise, the Red Devils’ squad hasn’t really been “attractive” enough since the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

Hazard and Lucas rejected the illustrious history of Untied and the aura that surrounded the club.

Money matters nowadays and if you have the funds, you can get success in football.

Although the English champions, United have been disappointing in Europe over the past two years. Frankly, neither does the team possess many ‘world-class’ talents and by the general perspective, nor do they have the money to buy such players. Not to forget, the youth products have also been mediocre of late.

And this situation has arisen because of the two following two factors.

1. Poor Past Dealings

Although Chelsea have struggled to promote academy players, their squad is oozing young prodigies due to exceptional transfers. Hence, it can be understood that Hazard wanted to join the Blues.

In the next two to three years, one can surely see Chelsea as one of the favorites for the Champions League. Yes, some of their signings have been poor, but they are often forgotten due to success of the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar, Ramires and now, Hazard.

It can be argued that United have a better record than Chelsea in the Champions League, but the young players feel they are more likely to compete on the European front with the Blues rather than the Reds.

This is because, an owner like Roman Abramovich assures you big, capable signings every summer and that’s what wins you the silverwares after all.

Any deficiency will be solved no matter how much it might cost. Chelsea have a weak attack and are likely to solve this issue this summer, even if it means paying more than  £50m on a striker.

On the other hand, it’s been years since United last signed a decent central midfielder, despite the fact that they are horrendously poor in the centre of the park.

Moreover, a player would rather like to be teammates with Oscar, Mata and Ramires, than Anderson and Tom Cleverley.

United eventually won games and championships under Ferguson but on the outlook one surely finds Chelsea with the more secured future.

United are themselves to be blamed for this ruckus. Had their past signings lived up to their billings, the Red Devils would have appeared much more enticing to Hazard and Lucas.

Due to the financial problems, United can’t really allow the relatively expensive transfer flops to stay at the club and continue to make big signings.

Real Madrid have been paying Kaka’s insane wages over the past years, yet they have gone on to sign Mesut Oezil and Luka Modric in the same period.

United don’t have the same luxury.

If they want to buy a top-class winger, they’ll first need to sell Young or Nani for a significant amount to clear the wage bill and keep the debt in check.

For this reason, Ferguson was sometimes way too patient with some players- hoping they’ll improve to become a mainstay in the United team or at least sell for a decent sum.

With clubs like Madrid, PSG and Chelsea you know that the team will only go from strength to strength. If one transfer is a flop, a better player will be purchased the next time. Gambles are allowed.

Chelsea have had more transfer busts than United over the past few years, but they have also had more transfer hits than their counter-parts.

2. Lack of Youth Products

United have also failed to produce talents from the academy as the ones who showed promise were lured away from the club, owing to lack of playing time, wiz, Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Mats Daehli.

Ferguson can be blamed here as he often preferred ageing veterans over the youngsters during his final few years at United.

Frankly, apart from Danny Welbeck, United haven’t had a top-notch academy graduate for several years now.

People don’t view United’s academy as good as that of FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich. And, well a better youth academy means a better future for the team. Moreover, add the financial prowess of the two clubs to the mix and they become much more attractive options than the red half of Manchester.

Thiago is choosing Bayern Munich ahead of United because he will have much better teammates at the Bavarians, which is a result of the latter’s excellent youth academy and transfers.

The Fergie factor hid these facts to a large extent but that magic is gone now.

About Surya 32 Articles
Surya Solanki is a freelance football writer covering the Premier League and African football. Being an avid Manchester United supporter for the past ten years, something always motivated him to go beyond just being a spectator, and gradually he began blogging about his views. He is currently a Manchester United critic at Goal.com and a correspondent for Football.com.

23 Comments

  1. Excellent Article. Though United players were not World Class, it was SAF who got 200% out of them to win the League. Now that he’s gone, it would be interesting to see if Moyes could do the same. Every transfer United do seems like a uphill battle for 2 months and then flops like a balloon. Chelsea are going to be huge with the talent oozing and with the Jose at the helm.

  2. There is a big mistake in this article about Hazard. Manchester United agreed terms and agreed to pay the wages he demanded (so did city and chelsea)…. but he CHOSE chelsea because they won the champions league! Chelsea didn’t offer more wages than United or city…

  3. Interesting article… I totally agree with your assessment of Fergie’s handling of our youth during his latter years. It was a real pain watching Pogba’s excellent performances during the u20 finals! How we need a player of his calibre! I just hope that Moyes continues with his Everton tradition of giving the youngsters a chance.

  4. Most of what you wrote is pointless, moura and hazard were about money, more money and even more money!!! That’s it nothing else. In regards to thiago, no one doubts his capabilities and his mad football skills, but is he exactly what united need?? In my view no. For one reason, Moyes is building his back bone at united and first on the list are cm’s that will support both defensively and offensively and thiago never has and never will offer the defensive support, that’s why he wasn’t fought after as hard as most people wanted. Pep wanted him badly because he knows him through and through, which will take lots of time for bayern players. I agree with some points but you are making united look a lot weaker and smaller than they really are. In regards to Madrid you should research a little more one of the main reasons they’ve been able to spend this much is because they get tons of tax breaks from the Spanish government and that’s all coming to light now because if Spain’s financial and economic situation.

  5. You seem to be massively misled, working for CFC i know that his wages are not what you have stated, his wages do not surpass John Terry’s, which as stand do not exceed 170k a week. There maybe bonus’ that send his earnings beyond that with image rights, but please do not stand on a number that the english press and leaks that suggest otherwise. Please base your information on facts rather that hearsay.

  6. to say United don’t have the financial muscle is ridiculous.They have more sponsorship deals than any other club.We don’t want to break our structure by paying 185,000 pounds a week to a kid and ignore quality players like carrick with 80,000 a week package.Fergie did 5n in the transfers.City offered 300,000 pounds a week fro RVP, but he chose United.We may not be Barca or Bayern, but Thiago would have got more playtime in Manc, too bad his loss.

    • United can NEVER compete with the likes of City, RM, PSG, Chelsea financially. If you think otherwise, then you’re deluded. Even Ferguson admitted that.
      Having more sponsorship doesn’t matter if the club has a debt of around 300 million.

  7. Utd still have massive pulling power and can still attract the top players, the thing that has changed over the past few years is the influence that agents have when it comes to transfers. If Utd paid the same amount of money on transfers and wages as the big two in Spain and the new super rich clubs than Utd would get the players they want. The same could be said about Arsenal as the players that left the club including RVP only did so because they were getting a serious payrise at their new club. I bet Pep’s brother got a nice little kickback on the Thiago deal and they are probably paying more than Ud in wages.

  8. You can add Nasir to the list. Transfer was agreed but mancity came offering better wage package and we lost out yet again. Frankly if this continues, I see us becoming another Liverpool. Look at city’s signings. As much as it pains me to say it those signings show ambition and we could just keep thinking that we are good as we are while other clubs leave us behind or we could flow and adapt with the times. Principles only get you so far

  9. Hi Surya,
    I would like to congratulate you on your article, its very good. In fact, you have truly written that nowadays, young players prefer money more than a club’s history. We cannot blame them. Football has evolved and players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs or even Steven Gerrard, one club man, are very rare nowadays.
    Sometimes, we have to agree that Sir Alex has not managed his young talents well in his final years. Pogba is the main example. He is such a great talent and Sir Alex has preferred to use his more experience players to succeed rather than allowing youngsters to prove themselves. Welbeck is an exception as he did very well on loan at Sunderland and Sir Alex knew that if he did not play him, he might well look out for a starting place in another team. I, however, do not agree that United does not have any stars. United in itself is a reference to every footballers. We have great players like Rooney, Van Persie, Vidic, Kagawa, Ferdinand and Carrick.
    What United lack is a good balance between the club’s elder players and the youth one. Of course, money does play a great role too. Chelsea, for example, managed wonderfully his elder team players to the younger ones.

  10. Excellent article,

    Spot on regarding United’s so called ‘pulling power’
    Simple case is United can not compete with City, Psg etc finacially. Granted there is a large ethical debate around this involing FFp rules but United have failed to evolve to an ever changing football landscape. Yes there are traditions that are important to uphold but the reluctance to push the boat out on genuine talent has developed a sort of groupthink mentality at United. Pogba is one such example. Ferguson disliked his arrogance for his age and criticised him publically for demanding more playing time/improved contract etc. Ferguson was furious with Juventus for ‘poaching’ him when infact United went outside the realm of footballing legality when they poached Pogba from Le Harve, going so far as to outright offer Pogba’s parents money as incentive. Le Harve were furious with United and even opened legal proceedings against United but it was ultimately quashed with an out of court settlement. United still got Pogba though and he was mishandled. Clearly good enough but no, Fergies ego got in the way. This sort of ‘no body is bigger than United’ nonsense that is the elephant in the room issue drives this mentality. While I agree a sense of principle is important in every collective organisation, this idea is borderline dogma and like most dogma, closed off to new ideas and ultimately necessary change and evolution! When we clearly need reinforcements this mentality takes over in the decisions at the club. There are obviously more complex variables involved on a case by case basis but United’s transfer manouverablity and flexibility is outdated. Take the latest case of Herrera. Clearly a target and badly needed. 100 million times the footballer than Anderson or cleverley but idiotic negotiations that were probably done by so called ‘imposters’ displays United’s ineptness in luring top players. Herrera even agreed to take a wage cut to push the deal through, but Moyes said he was over valued!probably to cover up the ‘imposter’ facade. What??? 24, in the same league as iniesta/fabregas/Thiago/isco, a testament to Spain’s immense ability to produce enormous amounts of world class talent. Incredible on the ball, great engine, creative, etc etc etc not to mention he will develop(by Del Bosques admission) into a player that will be important for Spain which will springboard him to one of the top midfielders in the world. Now if United wanted him in January or next summer his value will increase due to his rising profile, and Bilbao wont budge on their valuation. Their strict basque only policy(itself a victim of groupthink) means they are not keen to sell and if so clubs must meet their valuations, case in point Javi Martinez moving to Bayern. Bayern officials said of that deal it was one of the toughest deals they have ever negotiated but Martinez’s immense talent and similarity to beckenbauer, ability to play at centre-back etc meant he was worth the toil. United lack this long range perspective and their is ample evidence to support this. Selling Mats daehli back to Molde when he was under 18s player of the season the previous year. What does it say of Uniteds academy set up if Daehli’s not good enough and yet he’s the shining light out of the academy only 2 years after joining the club. I agree with your point about welbeck, he is a tremendous athlete but besides him, who? Jones? Smalling? Both over inflated! The recent interest in Alen Halilovic from Dinamo. Going to be an unbelievable player but he has said United is not a very attractive option and his most likely destination is Real with Zinedine zidane working hard behind the scenes to persuade him. Thing is United will have to pay over the odds wages for him and as we have seen United dont do this. and we dont play the type of football that will suit him. This has to be a huge factor in players making their decisions too. All very frustrating and points to a decline for United. Ok champions last season but take RVP out and no player coming through of his ability, big trouble ahead, not to mention that the ‘fergie factor’ is gone and Moyes is seen as something of a clown.

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