SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW : COLD FINANCIAL REALITY
Yes, even Manchester United has to deal with financial difficulty. Mauricio Pochettino and Luís Campos have looked like geniuses over the past two seasons thanks to one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the world. There are some teams you can argue have better starting lineups, but United’s ability to field a highly talented second squad has allowed them to plow through domestic and continental competitions without much of a drop off. There is no “weakened” squad at United, and that kind of setup costs money. The team has been more than willing to spend big on the 1st squad, but now that the second squad players are either demanding to be promoted or paid like they are a first choice player some tough choices need to be made. These moves have been made easier by the tidal wave of youth prospects ready to be given a chance, the team has spent so much money on them it’s about time they see if their investment is going to pay off.
The players most in the news were the Pay Me / Play Me Three ; Anthony Martial, Victor Tsygankov, and Luce Pellegrini. Martial was by far the loudest, having a much better scoring season than Jadon Sancho fueled his complaints for first team football and with that came a demand for a new contract. Martial was already making £9.4M a year, a hefty sum for a second choice player, and reports are that his demands went as high as £15M. While the Frenchman has had a good relationship with Pochettino, the amount of interest from other teams was a clear sign these two were headed for a break up. Tsygankov was taking the approach of demanding a loan, which wasn’t in the cards, and much like Martial he became a very expensive (£9.8M) malcontent who was blocking a youth prospect. He definitely made some noise in the media, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Martial’s campaign. Pellegrini was firmly in the “pay me” camp, demanding a significant raise (£10M) that United can’t afford.
The next tier of players were the much loved guys caught in the turnover grinder, these were the hardest moves to make and by far the least popular. Marcus Rashford, a son of Manchester, found himself in a bad position and suddenly became expendable. Rashford had a bad 2022-23, is highly paid, and had to watch Mason Greenwood put up an excellent season. With “The Next Ronaldo” looming, Rashford became the odd man out. Pochettino has been very enamoured with Armel Bella-Kotchap, but his salary is enough that moving him on makes sense after buying him for £20M and TransferMarkt valuing him at £60M. Bella-Kotchap also has a crowd of less expensive and highly regarded youth players hounding him, he became one of the most expendable players through no fault of his own. The final hard call was Ryan Gravenberch, he apparently saw an opening with his move to CAM and demanded £14M/year which is astronomical for a second choice player. With Fernandes blocking his way, Pochettino and Campos had to make a tough call.
The last group were just low hanging fruit being sold to make room for players United are heavily invested in. Ryan Gravenberch is much loved by Pochettino and fans, so Dani Olmo needed to go to make room for Danny Ginger. It also didn’t help that he demanded a doubling of his salary after a very good season. Nadiem Amiri played well in limited use, but he’s taking up space for a youngster that needs some senior level playing time. The fact that both of them came so cheaply and could be sold on at a solid profit made it even easier to send them packing. Antonio Marin was the last emotional cut, he seemed like a future star but fell flat on his face in a loan stint at Leicester after having a really good season at AC Milan. He was bought prior to Pochettino and there were other choices to fill in at LW, hopefully he can revive his career elsewhere.
Some teams tried their best to dismantle United’s roster, with PSG doing the most damage. With the media engine of Qatar Sports Investment running at full power the £110M bid for Mason Greenwood was all over the place before Pochettino even put the phone down, the bid was rejected immediately, and it blew up in PSG’s face a bit as Atlético Madrid spoiled things by jumping in at £126M. Once Rashford was out the door Greenwood wasn’t going anywhere and likely won’t be, PSG’s interest didn’t draw much discussion from Greenwood (at least in public) so it’s safe to say he’s committed to staying for a while. Real Madrid and PSG seem to be sharing the same mantra after the past few windows; If you can’t beat them, buy all their players. PSG purchased Tsygankov and Gravenberch along with their attempt to prise Greenwood, and Real Madrid have now purchased three United defenders. All of these sales have helped push United way in the black, their transfer spend numbers are eye popping for the opposite reason one would expect of United. The team would close out the transfer window with a dizzying £1.08B in transfer funds, enough to build multiple new stadiums and fueling the ever present rumors of a bid for Kylian Mbappé.
A tale of two Manchesters.
Senior / Major Transfers (Out)
Victor Tsygankov (RW, PSG) £80M
Anthony Martial (LW, Inter Milan) £80M
Marcus Rashford (CF, AC Milan) £77M
Ryan Gravenberch (CM, PSG) £76M
Dani Olmo (CAM, Chelsea) £66M
Armel Bella-Kotchap (CB, Real Madrid) £65M
Luca Pellegrini (LB, Real Madrid) £52M
Nadiem Amiri (CM, Zenit) £41.5M
Antonio Marin (RW, Napoli) £20.5M
Dean Henderson (GK, Bournemouth) £15M
Senior Transfers (In)
Final Transfer List (Impact Signings)
Prince Mars (RW, Chelsea - England) £16.5M
Thomas Brown (RB, Chelsea - England) £8M
Amine Bessières (CB, Nice - France) £7M
Ferdy van Velde (RB, AZ Alkmaar - Netherlands) £5.5M
Mark van der Linden (RB, Ajax - Netherlands) £4.5M
Jorge Ríos (CB, Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Germany) £2.3M
Obrendo Kluivert (CAM, FC Eindhoven - Netherlands) £2.1M
Júlio Franco Grandi (CB, Parnahyba SC - Brazil) £1.2M
Mattia Werlé (RW, AS Saint-Étienne - France) £1M
Merlin Latour-Maubourg (CF, AS Saint-Étienne - France) £500K
Elenilton Gonçalves (CAM, Porto - Brazil) £300K
Alisson Pagodinho (CAM, Benfica - Brazil) £250K
Tiano Nepomuceno (CB, Boavista - Brazil) £185K
Rodrigo Aparecido (LW, Corinthians - Brazil) £175K
With more money than sense and all the momentum they could possibly ask for, United are finally stepping into the domestic market and Chelsea is feeling the pain. The Blues are moving in the wrong direction and were willing to part with two of their best youth players for prices that might look foolish in a few years. Thomas Brown looks like an excellent player, but he will struggle in a RB depth chart dominated (and likely owned in a year or two) by King Holland, if he can reach his ceiling he could be an England regular and a great second squad player for United. Prince Mars is the real catch, getting him for only £16.5M is likely to look like a massive bargain. His incredible pace and skill on the wing have scouts comparing him to Raheem Sterling (£110M value per Transfermarkt), but less sanguine evaluations have him closer to Theo Walcott. Pochettino is certainly hoping the Sterling parallels are valid, he’s more likely to see a loan spell right away since he’s too good for U-23 football.