Manchester United have lined up Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez as a replacement for Paul Pogba, according to The Daily Star.
On paper, the Spaniard is untouchable in the transfer market as he has a nine year contract at Atleti with a £135 million release clause.
But The Star claims this has not put off the Red Devils, who ‘sent scouts to watch Niguez in action at Anfield earlier this month, when he helped Atletico knock Liverpool out of the Champions League.’
The outlet also claims that ‘United are desperate to strengthen their midfield options in the next transfer window and have been tracking Niguez all season.’
The 25-year-old is considered one of Spain’s best midfielders and has played 19 times for his national side, scoring three goals.
However, there is a huge gap between his market value of £82 million and that £135 million release clause.
One potential chink in the Spanish club’s armour is that Saul’s contract is reportedly 40% owned by a third party, Quality Football, led by superagent Jorge Mendes and former United CEO Peter Kenyon.
According to FourFourTwo, Quality Football acquired the stake in the player for just £1.2 million before FIFA outlawed third party player ownership in 2015.
The terms of the deal stipulate that Mendes and Kenyon would need to be notified of any bid made on their player, and if they agreed to it but either Atletico or Niguez turned it down, the club would be required to give the consortium 40% of the bid amount in return for their share.
This would mean, for example, that the Rojiblancos would have to fork out £36 million to Mendes and Kenyon if they turned down an offer of, say, £90 million. Given that they would also receive £54 million – their own 60% – if they agreed to such a sale, the club would be the full £90 million worse off if they refused such a deal unilaterally.
Mendes and Kenyon are shrewd businessmen and would know that the best way to maximise their investment would be by the player leaving the club whilst at the peak of his career.
This puts United in a much stronger position than may have been thought possible to land Saul’s signature and the club’s good relationship with Mendes may prove crucial in the Red Devils’ fight to land their man.
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