Following the closing of the transfer window in 2002, Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his disappointment at not being able to finalise the deals for three players. United had been in talks with several clubs but in the end no deal could be struck, so Ferguson instead praised the young players we had coming through.
“We’d like to have added maybe one or two more players during the summer,” Ferguson said. “We tried very hard to get the boy from Rennes, Escude, and we tried hard to get the boy Burdisso from Boca Juniors but they weren’t to be. We may revisit those in time. But that clearly stated how much we wanted to add to the squad. In the striker department, we did make a move for somebody else but it didn’t materialise. As long as I can keep Scholes and Giggs fit, I’ve got alternatives to playing strikers up there in different types of games. The money isn’t there in football at the moment, and academies may be the only avenue that some clubs have got left. Once you close doors for bringing players in during the season, the only course is to look at your own set-up. At the moment we’ve got Luke Chadwick, John O’Shea and Michael Stewart all doing very, very well. Danny Pugh has also done very well. He’s getting to that level now where Luke Chadwick was maybe a couple of years back. He’s only 19 and he’s got a good understanding of the game. Paul Tierney is a decent young left full back, he’s now in with Ireland’s Under-21s. Lee Roche has been in our squad and we’ve got one or two other good young players just waiting there.”
So, what happened to them?
United were linked with a £4m move for the French left-back as extra cover for the position after Denis Irwin left for Wolves, as well as an option centrally, behind Laurent Blanc and Rio Ferdinand in pecking order.
“Manchester United are interested in Julien and have made enquiries,” Escude’s agent Axel Lablatiniere said. “There has been no concrete offer made yet, but they are keen on the player. He caught the eye of several clubs after impressing in the European Under-21 Championship. Leeds have also expressed an interest in Julien but again no firm offer has been received. Julien would really like to join United because they are one of the best clubs in Europe and it is a move that every young player wants.”
However, talks stalled between United and Rennes, with the club concerned they were running out of time to bring in a replacement.
“Manchester have confirmed their interest in the player,” said Rennes general manager Pierre Dreossi. “But we are not interested in such a transfer as it it’s too late in the season and to find a suitable replacement would be difficult. We haven’t decided on anything. We will reflect on the situation in the interests of everyone.”
Escude picked up a bizarre injury over the summer when he was walking his dog, resulting in him needing a splint and crutches, although it was United’s “insulting” offer for the player which held up the move, not the injury.
The player was still keen to make the move to United though, having spent the past three seasons in the first team after joining them from Cannes.
“Indeed, Manchester United is a club interested in me,” he said. “I can’t remain without reaction about what Manchester United proposed to me, it makes you wonder. I had contact with Alex Ferguson. We had a talk, I wanted to know what he expected from me. I think Mr Ferguson is already thinking about next season in 2003-2004. When I was back, I met Philippe Bergeroo the coach, and Mr Cueff the chairman. Anyway, as they are both new, I wanted to meet them to know their aims. I still want to progress, I am ambitious. I want to play Champions League football and fight to win titles. I need to discover something else, it is now or never.”
Rennes were reluctant to sell though, despite the wishes of the player, although he didn’t let this effect him in training.
“You don’t get such an opportunity every day – either for the player or for the club,” he said. “Manchester United should make an offer soon. I am patient, I do not drag my feet during training sessions. I am present and motivated, but I hope we will find a solution as soon as possible.”
United were given a deadline of August 25th to resolve the situation and were told to up their bid. The clubs couldn’t come to an agreement though and at the end of the month Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed the transfer was not going to happen.
“The Escude thing looks as though it is finished,” he said. “Which is disappointing. We would still like to get a player in and we are pursuing one or two other channels, but we are running out of time.”
The player was equally disappointed by the failure and blamed the club for setting his transfer fee too high.
“I will have to stay at Rennes for another few months and of course I am disappointed because I absolutely wanted to leave for Manchester United,” said Escude. “Contrary to what I hear, there are still contacts with Alex Ferguson, but Rennes have set the fee too high. They estimate that I cost twice as much as Anthony Reveillere – that is a little exaggerated. The Rennes officials see me as an essential player. I am disappointed because the Rennes tried to buy time, and today they have won, and not me, which means Manchester United have not succeed in getting the player they wanted. I still I hope to find a compromise with Rennes. I want to sort my future out quickly, so I don’t have the same trouble next summer. I don’t want any complications. Everything is not over here and I don’t forget what the club, the city and the fans have brought to me. For now, I will work, I will try to help the club and succeed the best season as possible.”
The transfer window closed though and Escude stayed where he was, but United hadn’t given up hope of signing him. Ferguson revealed that the plan was to bring him to the club in January.
“We will take a player in January when the market for the Champions League second round is opened,” Ferguson told Ouest-France. “This player will be Nicolas Burdisso or Julien Escude.”
In the January Ferguson went to the Stade Velodrome to watch Marseille play Rennes to get another look at Escude. Scouts continued to go to Rennes games for the remainder of the season but the club confirmed that no new bid for the player had been made.
Come the summer, Rennes boss Laszlo Boloni confirmed the club were ready to sell the defender for the right price, but Ajax were the only club to bid for him. Their initial offer was rejected but the player met with Ajax officials and was keen to move to Holland.
“Last season, I already should have joined Manchester United,” said Escude. “But the deal finally fell through. Mr Ferguson called me several times and everything was okay. I asked for a meeting with the chairman but he refused.”
He won the league with Ajax in his first season and the Dutch Supercup in his second season.
In March 2005 Escude got his first call up for France after Patrice Evra, then at Monaco, pulled out of the squad with an injury.
Ajax manager, Danny Blind, confirmed that Escude was set to be Ajax captain for the following season.
“When I came to the squad last season, Tomas Galasek was captain, but he got injured,” Blind said. “Julien Escude has taken over the captain’s armband and we have left it that way. Now he is the first captain and Galasek second.”
However, just a month later, the player and manager had a falling out after a defeat against Feyenoord and Escude never played for Ajax again. When the transfer window opened in January he was sold to Sevilla for £1m.
He won the UEFA Cup (beating Middlesbrough) and UEFA Super Cup (beating Barcelona) in his first year there, the following year he won the UEFA Cup again (beating Espanyol), as well as the Spanish Cup (beating Getafe) and Spanish Super Cup (beating Barcelona), then his last trophy with the club in 2010, the Spanish Cup (beating Atletico Madrid).
A couple of years later, when he was 28-years-old, he was linked with a move to AC Milan and Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
“It is normal that a club like Milan are interested because Escude is a player with international experience and a great physical presence and tactical awareness,” Escude’s agent said. “Sevilla value him highly. If the player does leave it will be for Italy and not England.”
Reports suggested that Inter Milan were prepared to pay £9m for the defender and he was keen to make the move.
“I have a contract with Sevilla until 2011 and I like this club,” he said. “But when Inter, with one of the best coaches in the world, are interested in you it proves that you are doing something right. I have always tried to respect my contracts in football but you never know what could happen.”
Escude signed for Besiktas in 2012 on a free transfer but just two games in to the season was unhappy, after learning about a rule in the Turkish league relating to foreign players.
“I didn’t know that in Turkey there is a maximum quota for foreigners, I thought it was the same as in Europe,” he said. “This is the only time I’ve heard this.”
In July 2013, now 33-years-old, he revealed that he was looking for a move away from the club. “I think this will be my last year here, unless Besiktas offer me a further season,” he said. “Last year, apart from the last two months, I didn’t play a lot. A new coach has come in, and we get on well. I would like [at the end of his contract] to find something else in France, the USA or Spain. I’m open to everything. I’ve got to an age where, if a club wants you, you’re grateful.”
He has made 13 appearances for France.
Burdisso made his way up through the Boca Juniors academy but scouts from all over the world were looking at him. United played Boca in a friendly and beat them 2-0, and Burdisso stood out.
United offered £4m for him but Boca were holding out for £7m and they were keen to keep him on loan for a season.
Burdisso’s agent, Gustavo Mascardi, was the man responsible for bringing Juan Sebastian Veron to United the summer before.
“I know about Manchester’s interest and this is a negotiation that no club can let go by because it’s a lot of money for a defender,” he said.
The club were keen to keep a hold of him though and United couldn’t reach a suitable agreement.
“I would like to keep the player in our team,” said Boca president Mauricio Macri. “If United propose a good offer, then we will allow the transfer. It depends on the money. If that’s good, we will let him go. If it’s not, then we won’t.”
Burdisso remained at Boca for a further two seasons before he signed for Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan.
“I am very happy about arriving at Inter,” he said. “This is a great experience for me and it makes me feel like I am starting my career again. This is a dream come true.”
The player sadly missed he missed almost all of the 2004–05 season as his daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. He returned to the squad the following year and won the 2006 Coppa Italia. At the end of that year he extended his contract until 2009. During 2006, when Inter legend Giacinto Facchetti died, Burdisso was given the number 16 jersey for the retirement of Facchetti’s number 3 jersey.
In the summer of 2008, Kevin Keegan was reportedly keen to take Burdisso to Newcastle, but the player was quick to dismiss this.
“I have no intention of leaving Inter,” he said. “I’m staying right here.”
In the summer of 2009 he was linked with a move to Chelsea, but again the player dismissed the speculation.
“I have spoken to Mourinho, who told me that he is happy with me and that I have a lot to give to Inter,” he said. “My relationship with Mourinho is excellent and I hope that it remains like that in the future. I have learnt a lot with him. Last season was a positive year for me and my wish is to remain at Inter. I have no intention to change team.”
However, two months later Burdisso joined Roma on loan. “It is all done, I’m a Roma player,” he said. “I’m packing my bags and coming to Rome to sign.”
The following summer he was linked with a move to the Premier League, with the player claiming that United or City were interested in signing him.
“I have been told that in the next days an offer from Manchester is going to arrive at the club and that when that happens the manager, Vicente Cunado, is going to tell me if it’s from Manchester City or Manchester United,” he said. “In addition, according to what is being said by the press of Rosario, it seems to be that what has been offered is what Rosario Central expects for my transfer.”
However, despite interest from Chelsea and Juventus, he signed for Roma on a permanent basis for €8m.
In the 2012-2013 season, Burdisso lost his place in the starting line-up, now 32-years-old, under manager Zdenek Zeman.
He has made 49 appearances for Argentina.