One of the more surprising rumours of last week was that Radamel Falcao is set to join Manchester United, as was reported in the Spanish press. Alberto R. Barbero, writing for Marca, claimed that “sources close to both parties suggest that a down payment may have already been made as a guarantee for a future transfer.” Sky Sports Spanish football expert, Guillem Balague, supported this claim on Twitter, saying United had “paid an advance as they did with de Gea”. Ballague claims that this payment, a deposit, is to ensure that Falcao’s third party owners have guarantees that we are interested. He also claims this fee is refundable and that if United aren’t successful in signing the player, they will be reimbursed, and that a similar deal was put in place when we signed David de Gea from Atletico Madrid.
Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about the rumours during his Friday press conference and as you would expect, whether we were in talks with Atletico Madrid or not, he dismissed the story. “Do you honestly believe that?” he said. “Really? It does amaze me that you come up with that one.”
In January 2010, De Gea’s agent at the time, Hector Rincon, claimed that United were interested in signing him. “I didn’t talk with Ferguson but an intermediary of Manchester confirmed there’s real interest in De Gea,” he said.
In September of that year Ferguson missed our League Cup game against Scunthorpe, the third time he was absent for a match during his career at Old Trafford, to watch Atletico Madrid play Valencia, our next opponents in the Champions League. It was a convenient excuse for a scouting mission.
The following April, after more stories appeared in the papers linking us to De Gea, and Spanish radio station Onda Cero claimed that United had a €20m bid accepted, Rincon confirmed that he had held talks with United, but that no agreement had been made between the clubs yet. “Well, we did have talks with Manchester United but, first of all, they always look for an agreement with the club,” he said.
Two weeks later Ferguson dismissed the story out of hand when asked about the agent’s claims. “On Italian television I am supposed to be signing two players from Italy tonight, so I can place that story along with those,” he said. “There is always speculation about who we are going to sign. So many people throw names at me. I can’t answer it.” On the same day, Atletico general manager confirmed that United (and Chelsea) had put in a bid.
A few days later United scout and Ferguson’s brother, Martin, went to watch Atletico Madrid play Barcelona. Three weeks later David Gill confirmed, without naming the player, that the club had a goalkeeper in mind and they were confident of signing him. Then, less than two weeks later, Ferguson confirmed that an agreement had been put in place. “We’ve been working on it for quite a while, we identified him a while back as one we should go for,” he said. “He’s an outstanding replacement for Edwin van der Sar.” There were just six weeks between Ferguson dismissing the story and confirming that a deal had been put in place.
It was over a month before De Gea completed his medical and signed a contract though, after delays partly explained by the keeper changing his agent to Jorge Mendes, who brokered the deal. He was also responsible for the transfers of Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson and Bebe to United.
Whilst the prospect of United meeting Falcao’s £45-£50m release clause seems unlikely, even if we do include Javier Hernandez to decrease the amount of cash we’d have to pay out, it is interesting to note that the Colombian’s agent is… Jorge Mendes.
Chelsea do seem the most likely destination for him though and Falcao has spoken in the press several times about his desire to play for them, particularly when his former boss Andre Villas-Boas had the job at Stamford Bridge. His father revealed last September that Chelsea were the dream club. “Ever since he was a boy he has loved Chelsea and has always thought it would be an honour to play for a big Premier League team,” he said. It’s an interesting thought, as you don’t imagine many kids in Colombia supporting a midtable team in England. However, two days later his father changed his tune slightly. “His dream is to play for Real Madrid,” he claimed. “Since he was a boy he’s always wanted to play there.”
We should take this to mean that when Falcao was a boy he dreamed of playing football for a big club who could compete for trophies, whether that’s Real Madrid, Chelsea… or us.
Chelsea will also have FFP to consider. They will be happy to include Fernando Torres in the deal, just as we would Chicharito, even though Atletico reportedly want a cash only transfer. Their biggest problem will be complying with FFP though after recording their first profit in the Abramovich era last year. They made £1.4m last year, the same amount as Burnley, so will be in trouble if they drop another £50m on a striker.
New Premier League rules state that clubs can only lose £105m between 2013-2016 and that wages bills over £52m can only rise £4m per season if funded through TV cash. Clubs that breach the Premier League’s new wage increase controls and loss limits will face point deductions. If these rules had been in place over the past three years, Chelsea would be £32m over the allowance. Chelsea’s wage bill was £171m last year but there is the possibility of them having more money to play with to keep within the £4m rise if some players move on. Torres earns a reported £200,000-a-week whilst Frank Lampard earns £150,000-a-week. In contrast, whilst United don’t need to worry about complying with the Premier League rules, it’s the Glazers that restrict our spending. Our net spend over the past five years averages out at around £11m a season, meaning we would likely have to make a big sale if we were to splash the cash on Falcao. Wayne Rooney? 2+2=5? Time will tell…