Early Doors

Are United wasting everybody’s time?

Early Doors

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Lucas Moura 'picked' PSG over Manchester United.

The news that Lucas Moura had "chosen" Paris Saint-Germain over Manchester United was greeted with derision in some quarters.

The derision was a two-way street, with the usual anti-United brigade gloating at their hated enemy's inability to compete in the transfer market with the likes of PSG, Manchester City and even Chelsea.

"Where's your history now?" they gloated, mocking United's belief that — like Barcelona and Real Madrid — players want to join them, and will do so even if there's a bigger pay packet on offer elsewhere.

Then there were the United sympathisers lining up to stick the knife into the player and his agent for following the money at the expense of his development as a footballer, suggesting the young Brazilian to be the kind of individual who will soon be angling for his next windfall.

While the professionally partisan usually offer little in the way of incisive analysis, both sets of trolls make good points.

In the case of the Lucas-baiters, we have to remember that — Champions League qualification aside — PSG are a big fish in a medium-sized pond. The French league is well organised, financially stable and genuinely competitive, but it is a clear step below the Premier League.

That is not Anglophile bias, parochial ignorance or cultural snobbery but simple fact: players want to play in England because they can earn more, which in turn attracts a higher level of player and creates a stronger league, regardless of who owns the club.

It's a neat reverse of their respective rugby systems - the Top 14 does not have a salary cap and, while less stable than the Premiership, is a more attractive proposition and thus has the better players and the stronger clubs.

Lucas's insistence that he prefers Paris to Manchester (who doesn't?) barely washes when you consider who he would be working for, the stage he would be performing on and the benefits he would gain from joining. Ask any French player and they will take a wet Tuesday at Stoke over a mild Friday at Bordeaux, despite the clear gastronomic and cultural benefits of the latter.

But did Lucas really have any say in the matter?

We can be certain that PSG did offer him a tidy wage packet. But they would have to, not just to entice him to an inferior league, but because - for all its social benefits - Paris is twice as expensive as Manchester.

But by all accounts the major stumbling block was the transfer fee between the two clubs. Sir Alex Ferguson complained that Sao Paulo demanded 45 million euros for the youngster, which does seem a lot for a 19-year-old who has only played in the notoriously flaky Brazilian league, whose goals (14) and assists (10) to game (54) ratio does not set the pulse racing to the extent that, say, Neymar's does.

ED agrees with Sir Alex on this, but ED - and its mechanical buddy Eurobot - have been saying this all summer. Were United really ever going to spend close to £35m on a player with no pedigree in a top league, with no guarantee of a return on that investment? A very similar player, Robinho, had pedigree in La Liga but - as is often the way with South American players - was a flop in Manchester. Why risk that again?

Which begs the question,  what on earth were United doing pursuing the player in the first place?

Once a player is established an established star with one of the bigger clubs in Brazil's Campeonato, you will simply not get him on the cheap as you may have done in 2009.
You won't even get him for a reasonable price: Brazil's economy is and has been booming for the past 10-15 years, with annual growth rates of around five percent comparable only to those of small Balkan nations emerging from states of semi-anarchy.

Indeed, with the 2014 World Cup looming and Brazilian clubs seeking to consolidate their continental power by retaining their best players, the domestic transfer market is comparable to that other inflated bull-market - England's Premier League.

And throw in the shyster agents and third-party ownership schemes prevalent in South America, you simply won't find value in Brazil any more, the kind of value that Fergie and the Glazers trumpet so loudly when, for example, preferring Shinji Kagawa to Eden Hazard.

ED is not saying that this doesn't make perfect business sense: it does, and anyone who shares ED's serious-but-manageable Football Manager addiction will agree that the value is in well-priced youngsters (Nick Powell) and contract rebels (Kagawa).

The pursuit of Lucas Moura had a touch of the Real Madrid about it, with that shade of bravado and conviction that the player's price could be driven down by sheer weight of the club's draw.

But as even Real and Barca will now testify, the entrance of PSG and Manchester City into the upper tier of the transfer market has blown those conceits out of the water, with Spain's big-hitters somewhat more cautious in their dealings.

So what was the point of the Moura pursuit? Was it bravado, posturing? If it was, it could hardly send a worse message to the likes of Robin van Persie, who is understood to be concerned about United's relative ambition.

Perhaps it was a calculated distraction, a red herring to sent journalists, agents and fans while the Van Persie deal was constructed. Maybe not. Either way, it was a waste of everybody's time.


HASHTAG OF THE DAY: "Just handed in a transfer request just to let the fans know where I am at right now.... #headsgone" — Steven Fletcher may well be headless if Wolves fans get hold of the wantaway striker, who has rivalled Gary Holt's infamous "#lovedmytime" with his own episode of navel-gazing. To Fletcher's credit, he soon slipped into self-deprecation, adding "Just found my head in time to watch the 200m #headsback".

FOREIGN VIEW: Spanish football stopped for a minute to remember Daniel Jarque, the Espanyol captain who died suddenly three years ago.

COMING UP: Liverpool hold a narrow lead against FK Gomel as they bid to qualify for the Europa League. Live commentary from 8.05pm.

The women's Olympic football tournament has impressed pretty much everyone and the final is today — can Japan complete a World Cup and Olympic double, or will the USA defend their title? Live commentary from 7.45pm.

The Olympic action just keeps on coming, with 16 gold medals on the line today. You can watch another full day on British Eurosport HD or via the Eurosport Player, or follow our live commentary online.

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