Manchester United striker Anthony Martial had a busy summer transfer window even before the Red Devils came into the picture.
Get French Football News can reveal new details as to how the player’s summer panned out in terms of offers and approaches.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger held talks with AS Monaco in June about the availability of players, including Geoffrey Kondogbia. Wenger also held talks with Kondogbia himself, but, in the end, was put off by the transfer fee. Inter Milan have paid in excess of €40m for the player.
Anthony Martial and Layvin Kurzawa were two players that were mentioned in conversations between Monaco and Arsenal in June, but ASM made it clear that they would not sell either player.
The reality of course, was exactly the opposite, which was evident in August, with Kurzawa going to PSG and Martial moving to Manchester United.
As early as the end of May, Klaus Allofs presented Monaco with a €30m offer for Anthony Martial on behalf of Wolfsburg. At this point, Monaco had assured manager Leonardo Jardim that Martial was on the unsellable list and swiftly rejected the proposal. It was made clear to the Bundesliga outfit that a deal would not be taking place, so Wolfsburg did not return for the player.
According to Le 10 Sport, Bayern Munich were actually the first club to make an official enquiry in early May, but did not take that interest any further.
Then came Tottenham Hotspur, who are believed to have made two offers, the first worth €20m and the second worth a little over €30m including bonuses. Contrary to reports from France Football in June, neither a fee nor a deal was ever agreed between all three parties.
By early July, most of Europe’s elite had held general transfer meetings with AS Monaco, with Anthony Martial, generally-speaking, being part of these discussions, notably with Chelsea, Juventus and Manchester City for example.
Monaco were resolute, the player was not for sale.
Manchester United’s offer came out of the blue therefore in late August. Quite literally out of the blue. At this point, it would be a fair assessment to say that Manchester United were running out of options and becoming desperate. They were of course aware of Anthony Martial and had been following the player for over 12 months, but he is not believed to have been identified as a primary target for this summer transfer window.
It is only after failing to acquire several handfuls of targets that Ed Woodward turned his attention to Anthony Martial. France Football claimed that initial contacts were made between Martial’s entourage and Manchester United about ten days before the end of the transfer window, but sources involved in and around Monaco contacted by Get French Football News doubt the legitimacy of that claim, believing that it was closer to five days prior to deadline day.
On the 30th August 2015, Manchester United presented an offer to AS Monaco worth €60m for Anthony Martial on the morning of ASM’s vital clash with PSG, only the fourth formal bid that the Principality are believed to have received for the player all summer.
Monaco were willing to stand firm and retain their man, after all, it had been a testing previous seven days for the Principality side. In that same week, they had been denied a place in the Champions League by Valencia, the very club that Jorge Mendes then almost single-handedly sold defensive rock Aymen Abdennour to, despite Chelsea apparently hoping that the Portuguese super agent might delay the deal even further, so that they could pounce if principal targets (John Stones of Everton and Marquinhos of PSG) were not acquired (which of course in the end they were not).
As if that was not bad enough, the central defender that Monaco had agreed a deal to sign from Goias to replace Aymen Abdennour for €2.5m failed his medical the day before the clash against PSG, leaving the Principality side scrambling to acquire other targets with 48 hours until the end of the transfer window (the failed to find another suitable defender in time).
Perhaps the most worrying reality for Monaco though, even before the Martial deal went through, was that Leonardo Jardim was understood to have, at the beginning of the week, made his unhappiness with the club’s transfer situation, most notably the fact that he was not allowed to play Aymen Abdennour because of fears that exposure to competitive football might run the risk of a potentially deal-scuppering injury, known to Monaco Vice President Vadim Vasilyev.
Jardim is alleged to have even threatened to quit the club if the situation deteriorated yet further. The point is therefore, that even before Manchester United’s first official offer for Martial, the board and club management were on a knife-edge.
For these reasons, Vasilyev rejected the stunning €60m opening bid by Manchester United. Manchester United then notified the player’s principal agent, Philippe Lamboley of Mondial Sport Promotion. It is believed that only after the player conveyed his desire to join Manchester United to Vadim Vasilyev, framing the argument that this was potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity, that ASM agreed to return to the negotiating table with the Red Devils in order to strike a deal.
Vasilyev has, in the last 24 months, proved himself to be one of the toughest negotiators in European football. He has an exceptional ability to consistently over-charge Europe’s elite without resorting to any underhand tactics and, more impressively, whilst earning and retaining the respect of the club on the other side of the table.
Sources at the Principality club reckon that perhaps the deciding factor in Vadim Vasilyev’s decision to potentially risk the club’s season and the goodwill of its manager by selling Anthony Martial lay with what happened between the young striker and Vasilyev last summer.
Anthony Martial attempted to leave the club in the summer of 2014 because of a lacking of playing-time assurances from then new manager Leonardo Jardim and reported unhappiness with his pre-existing contract. Martial’s entourage actively clashed with Monaco’s board, who had agreed a fee to sell the then 18-year-old to Valencia but pulled out of the deal after the departure of Falcao that they had been trying so desperately for went from being possible to probable after the late manifestation of several interested parties in the Premier League.
Monaco had denied Anthony Martial his move in 2014 and Vasilyev was won over by the player’s honesty with regards to the situation on the 30th August 2015. The decision to actively pursue a deal with Manchester United was made before Martial played for the club against PSG later that evening.
However, this alteration in Vadim Vasilyev’s decision-making only went from making a deal with Manchester United possible, rather than impossible and therefore certainly not a foregone conclusion.
Monaco duly returned to the negotiating table, demanding the €60m originally offered and Javier Hernandez and Marcos Rojo in exchange for Anthony Martial. This counter-offer was believed to have been made just minutes before kick-off for Monaco’s Ligue 1 encounter with PSG.
Ahead of the match the influential Luis Campos, now Special Advisor to the Vice President of Monaco to provide his official title, was quizzed about Anthony Martial’s future and the possibility of a move to Manchester United. At the time, Campos denied that any deal was going to make place, with some now suggesting that the Portuguese transfer guru was unaware that Vasilyev had already returned to the negotiating table, a claim that appears somewhat difficult to believe.
Manchester United in the meantime had all but concluded the sale of Javier Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen, with the player having already agreed to join the Bundesliga side. The Mexican had no intention of going back on a deal that was only being held-up because Manchester United had yet to seal the transfer of Anthony Martial.
In Manchester, Monaco’s counter-offer therefore was problematic for several reasons. The sale of Hernandez was all but agreed and the player had his sights set on the Bundesliga and not Ligue 1. As for Marcos Rojo, the Red Devils had learned the hard way in 2014/2015 when an injury crisis affecting defensive positions forced them to give untried and inexperienced individuals such as Paddy McNair considerable playing time. They had no intention of such a situation repeating itself in 2015/16 and a deal including Rojo was excluded.
Manchester United’s final option was to add a selection of bonuses onto the end of their original €60m offer in order to entice Monaco. A deal was agreed worth €80m in the early hours of Monday morning, with virtually all the bonuses very likely to be fulfilled, a Monaco source assures us. Claims that there is a €5m bonus included in the deal which is activated should Martial win the Ballon D’Or have never actually been verified by a reputable source, but it is possible that is on top of the €20m bonuses which are generally accepted to include fairly standard requirements in order to be activated such as amount of appearances and goals for France and Manchester United.
And so, just like that, Anthony Martial became one of the most expensive players that world football has ever seen and the most expensive French footballer of all-time. Martial travelled to Manchester at midday on Monday after being given permission to by Didier Deschamps to leave Clairefontaine, the deal coinciding with his first call-up to the French national team. He returned in the evening, having undergone a medical with success, signing his new contract, partaking in official interviews and posing for the official photos in his new shirt. He was announced as a Manchester United player officially the following day.
Vasilyev recently claimed that during the summer transfer window he had rejected an offer worth more than for the amount that he eventually sold Martial to Manchester United for. If such an offer existed, and we might never know the truth, then it is unlikely to have been reiterated anywhere aside from Mr Vasilyev’s metaphorical negotiating table.