Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Significant Man Utd transfer blunder comes to light as confirmation arrives of rejected club-record €100m bid

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Former Lazio sporting director Igli Tare has confirmed the Serie A outfit rejected a significant €100m offer from Manchester United to sign Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in a transfer that could have netted the capital club a record-transfer windfall.

The Serbian midfielder has, for a number of years, been the outstanding goalscoring midfielder in Serie A, starring for Lazio over eight seasons making a total of 341 appearances and scoring 61 goals in that time. At the peak of his powers – and at the height of the transfer market, pre-pandemic days, Milinkovic-Savic was rated in the €130m bracket by Lazio.

Having developed into the Biancocelesti’s leader, Milinkovic-Savic was on the Manchester United radar for a good number of years with the player first brought to Jose Mourinho’s attention by his compatriot and then Red Devils star, Nemanja Matic.

Indeed, Mourinho had, back in summer 2016, smashed the club’s transfer record to bring Paul Pogba back to the club, and it was not seen prudent by the club to sign another similar midfielder for an equally huge fee.

But having kept their eye on Milinkovic-Savic’s progress, it wasn’t until the years of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the summer of 2020 that United formally launched a bid.

At that time, United were beginning to have doubts over Pogba’s long-term future at Old Trafford with his contract beginning to wind down and amid suggestions he was pining for a return to Juventus.

To prepare for Pogtba’s potential exit – which ultimately did not come until summer 2022 – United made their move to try and bring in Milinkovic-Savic as a would-be replacement.

However, Lazio rejected the offer – worth €100m (£86.7m at the time) which would have netted Lazio a club-record windfall.

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Reasons for Man Utd failure to sign Milinkovic-Savic emerge

Explaining why the offer was rejected and reflecting on other rumours around the 47-times capped Serbian star, Tare laid bare the truths around the Manchester United approach in an interview with TV Play.

“Many untrue things have been said about Milinkovic-Savic, from his farewell on a free transfer to the fact that he didn’t want to stay,” Tare, who left his job at Lazio last year, said.

“The only true thing is that [president, Claudio] Lotito rejected a very important offer, worth over 100 million euros, from Milan and Manchester United. I don’t want to say too much about the lack of sale.

“Even if there was a question of budgets, but Lotito’s choices were to maintain a strong team and respect the promises made to the coach. Let’s not forget that in the year of Covid, Lazio was about to win the Scudetto.”

Milinkovic-Savic did eventually leave Lazio last summer, departing for the riches of Saudi Arabia and joining Al-Hilal in a €40m (£34m) deal.

He has continued his fine form in the Saudi Pro-League, scoring 11 times in 27 games for his new club.

“When someone leaves to go to Saudi Arabia their motivation is money, but you need to ask him why he wants to leave. I tried my best to keep him here but when he asks to go for his own personal reasons what can I do?” Lotito said.

“We were willing to extend his deal and increase his salary. At the end of the day it’s the player who decides what to do with his life. He phoned me begging me to let him go.”

United made major transfer blunder after missing midfielder transfer

Having missed the chance to sign Milinkovic-Savic, then United boss Solskjaer chose instead to bring in Donny van de Beek from Ajax.

The midfielder arrived in an initial £35m deal, which would hit £40m before too long.

However, the Dutchman proved a major flop at United, having been branded one of the ‘worst signings’ in their history, and going on to make a total of just 62 appearances over three-and-a-half years at Old Trafford.

It very quickly emerged that Van de Beek did not have the abilities required to be a success in the Premier League, farmed out to Everton during one spell on loan, where he fared little better. Even the appointment of his former Ajax mentor, Erik ten Hag, as United boss failed to reignite his career.

Van de Beek eventually left United at the start of this month, signing for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt with a view to make a permanent €12m move.

The 26-year-old – capped 19 times by the Netherlands – has so far made three appearances for Die Adler, but was subbed off at half-time on Friday night as they recorded a 1-0 win over Mainz to go sixth.

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