De Gea Deal Disaster Makes Fools Of Manchester United And Real Madrid

It’s hard to decide if it was as funny as it was oddly fitting. It was certainly a farce to match anything that the end of the transfer window has thrown up before, from supposedly rogue lawyers negotiating for Ander Herrera to Peter Odemwingie turning up at QPR’s training ground.

The story around Real Madrid is that, despite the club’s long-term interest in David De Gea and having an entire summer to act on it, they wanted to leave it late so they could spin the PR angle that the club had come out on top in yet another tough transfer battle - just as they did with Gareth Bale two years ago.

It led to the ultimate PR own goal, as the Spanish giants - an institution who pride themselves on “class” and a refined way of doing things - saw such a mega-deal come under threat from mundane struggles with modern technology, as they attempted to get all paperwork in on time. So much for leaving it late. So much for a refined way of doing things, and the supposed sophistication of these global super-clubs.

After all, this hasn’t exactly been the finest 48 hours for the club Real were doing business with, either. Manchester United sources say their fumbled transfer plans had sent its officials into full-on “panic mode” by Monday evening.

The concern is that they still need so much more than Anthony Martial coming in, as the 2-1 defeat to Swansea City only re-iterated. Instead, so much of their business has been confusing and almost illogical, not least the decision to send Adnan Januzaj out on loan for experience, despite previously deeming him good enough to start as the playmaker in three of their last four games.

That’s quite an abrupt leap, but then manager Louis van Gaal made a few other logical leaps. After the Swansea game, the manager said that he felt United “controlled” the game, and even had “too much domination”.

For all the esoteric debates about processes and tangential discussions like what the long-term point of possession should be, let’s be clear about what statements like that really are - utter nonsense.

It’s a pretty odd form of “control” if you can’t actually do what you want to do and bend a game to your will by actually playing the kind of football that might win it. By contrast, United created very few good chances and were too easily opened up, looking rather fragile at the back for the first time this season.

That’s not control. That’s trying to safely do the bare minimum, but not actually having the assurance to properly take command, for fear that you’ll spin out of control.

What is more fitting of the word “control” is the influence of the man that has already played a big role in United’s transfer business: Jorge Mendes.

All summer, Old Trafford executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been desperate for a marquee name, and the club have made at least initial enquiries about a series of stars: Thomas Muller, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and - yes - Neymar.

Some sources even state that United initiated contact with Real again because they felt they could still get Bale.

When none of these came off and the club continued to struggle for forward options, though, it was conspicuous that United once again turned to Mendes - just like when they struggled at the end of last year’s summer window.

Then, it was to persuade Angel Di Maria to go to Old Trafford. This time, it was to buy Martial from Monaco, a club where Mendes is a trusted advisor on transfer policy.

The super-agent has huge say in a significant corner of the market, enjoying either good working relationships or outright influence at a series of major clubs: United, Real, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Valencia, Monaco, FC Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Zenit St Petersburg and Paris Saint-Germain.

He is also, of course, the agent of De Gea.

That is certainly a man in control. In the last week, he had given Real personal guarantees that the De Gea deal would happen.

Not even Mendes, however, could legislate for football’s remarkable propensity for the ludicrous.


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