Manchester United target Saul Niguez has sent fans into meltdown after a cryptic tweet suggesting he is leaving Atletico Madrid.
The 25-year-old is considered one of the best central midfielders in the world but his €150 million (£134m) release clause has made him untouchable in the transfer market until now.
But yesterday the Spaniard tweeted ‘I have something important to tell you’ and then ‘New Club: I’ll announce it in 3 days’ in both Spanish and English. He has also changed his profile picture to the words ‘3 dias’ (3 days).
It is highly unusual for a footballer to announce his own transfer – especially when there has been little press on the subject – so it seems more likely that Saul’s ‘new club’ will refer to another sort of commercial activity, such as a new sponsor, investment or charitable organisation – the kind of publicity stunt that the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic have pulled in the past.
On the other hand, it is not unprecedented for Atleti players to announce their next contract themselves. In 2018 Antoine Griezmann ran a video called ‘La Decision’ (the decision) which was revealed to be a contract extension amid reports that he would be joining Barcelona, which he did a year later.
And the fact is that if Saul really is about to announce a change of football club, Manchester United is the most likely destination.
There have been a number of reports in the last two months linking the Spaniard with a move to Old Trafford and Todofichajes.com claimed recently that a fee has been agreed and that a deal is practically concluded.
‘Saúl is very close to becoming a Manchester United player’ the outlet reported, stating that an amount of around £70 million had been negotiated for his transfer fee.
What is interesting about this case is that the midfielder is one of the last players in Spain to be under a third party contract arrangement, something that is no longer within the rules of professional football.
His contract is 40% owned by a consortium headed by former United CEO Peter Kenyon and superagent Jorge Mendes, who could effectively force Atleti’s hand to sell Niguez.
If a bid comes in that Kenyon and Mendes accept, the Rojiblancos have to either accept it themselves or buy the consortium out of the contract at the bid amount. So a bid of £70 million would force the Spanish club to pay £28 million to the investors, whether or not the sale goes through.
The fact that Kenyon has United connections and Mendes’ relations with the club are strong also play in the Red Devils’ favour.
All speculation, perhaps, but it is certainly true that whatever the tweet is about, a world class player whose contract once made him seem untouchable could now be up for grabs, which is welcome news for Manchester United.