Watford’s former technical director has revealed how winger Ismaila Sarr came “extremely close” to signing for Manchester United last summer.
Sarr moved to Watford in 2019 upon the Hornets’ promotion to the Premier League. But while the Hertfordshire club ultimately suffered relegation last season, their Senegalese winger proved a shining light. The 23-year-old chipped in with five goals and six assists, including his brace which helped inflict Liverpool’s first defeat of the campaign.
Thus, he entered last summer’s transfer window in high demand.
Liverpool had him on their shortlist of attacking targets, before eventually signing Diogo Jota. Indeed, Sarr’s agent has previously revealed how he had arrived “at the stage of signing the contract” with Anfield chiefs.
However, United also eyed Sarr’s signature and ex-Watford chief Filippo Girardi has outlined how the Red Devils eventually passed up on the chance to sign the player.
Sarr instead stayed at Watford and has scored nine goals and assisted nine others in the Championship this season (via Transfermarkt), with the Hornets second in the table.
“We were extremely close, I was personally negotiating with them [Manchester United],” Girardi told Fabrizio Romano’s Here We Go podcast.
“We weren’t able to reach an agreement. Ismaila is still very young, he will arrive [in the Premier League] for sure.
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“He missed probably an opportunity, but I think also for his football to stay here and get 10 goals and 10 assists, he’s deciding the league.
“I think for Watford in the condition they are at the moment it’s lucky he stayed.”
Watford could well face another struggle to keep hold of Sarr in the upcoming transfer window.
Indeed, the winger has eaten into another year of his contract, which runs out in 2024.
Girardi hails ‘rare’ talent Sarr
“I love Ismaila, because he has the ability to affect the game every time he plays, and that’s quite rare,” Girardi added.
“You see fast wingers becoming more and more important in physical leagues like the Premier League.
“I remember last year against Manchester United and Liverpool, he was the one with Gerard Deulofeu on the other side affecting the game and deciding the game every time.
“This type of player are players you have to try to maximise and protect them as much as you can.”
Sarr has helped Watford into a strong position to bounce straight back into the Premier League, with the Hornets six points clear of third-placed Swansea.