Athletic Bilbao not so innocent in Herrera to Manchester United collapse, claims Spanish journalist

“What a mess”. Those were the words quickly doing the rounds on Twitter last night when news trickled through that the deal for Ander Herrera was called off. Newly appointed Manchester United CEO Edward Woodward was blamed thousands of times for multiple things, but one word came up more than once: “incompetent”. It's hard not to agree with the accusations, but a question everyone wants answered is “what actually happened?”.

First of all, it's worth nothing that the “three wise men” spotted walking in and out of the LFP (Liga de Fútbol Profesional) headquarters were not impostors, but a group of Bilbao lawyers who had dealt with Athletic Bilbao (especially in the Javi Martinez transfer) before. 

Other than talks of the deal breaking down over the release clause, it appears there was an obstacle that even Bayern Munich struggled to overcome when they attempted to sign Javi Martinez.

Lartaun de Arizmendi, a journalist for Cadena COPE (the radio station who first broke the news that Manchester United were interested in Ander Herrera), has revealed in a post on his personal blog that, irregardless of the reported clause, the Herrera deal was near impossible to complete and that Bayern Munich needed external help to force through the Javi Martinez transfer.

He says that after much reflection on the Javi Martinez case, Athletic Bilbao came to realise that the player depositing the cheque on Bayern Munich's behalf (even if Athletic were against the move) wasn't enough to make the deal 100% go through. Once they had discovered this detail, Athletic used it to their advantage and told Bayern Munich that for a unilateral deal like this one to go through, the club has to agree to receive the fee in their bank account.

If Bilbao refuse to receive the money, and there was no obligation for them to do so, the will of the paying club (Bayern Munich) and the player (Javi Martinez) counted for nothing. In order to force the deal to go through, Munich contacted the Financial Council in Bilbao to tell them that this offer was being refused. The Financial Council, who would benefit from this deal going through, pressured Athletic Bilbao in accepting the money by telling them that if they did not do so, they would be required to immediately pay all the debts they owed the Financial Council and would not receive anymore help from them in the future.

It is only after this happened that Athletic Bilbao accepted the offer for Javi Martinez and have the money placed in their bank account.

Returning to the Herrera deal, it appears that there was never any panic on Athletic Bilbao's side and it was reported many times that they were confident the deal would not go through. If what Lartaun de Arizmendi has written is true, Bilbao knew that Manchester United would never have the time to get the Financial Council on their side in time for a similar process to happen.

If Bilbao refused to accept the money in their bank account, this would explain why the three Laffer lawyers were turned away at the LFP headquarters yesterday evening.

Edward Woodward (or whoever was in charge of the deal) was not aware of the loophole exploited by Bayern Munich and why would they be? Athletic Bilbao will have clearly done their best to keep it a secret in order to hold on to their best players.

As we all know, Juventus had to wait an extra year to get Fernando Llorente on a free because they hit a stumbling block similar to the one Manchester United crashed into late last night. Again, if what Lartaun writes is correct (and logically, it seems to be), Juventus would not have known of the Javi Martinez loophole and Bilbao stubbornly refused to accept the money.

Lartaun writes at the bottom of his post: “This is what I have managed to find on the Ander Herrera/MUFC deal. Now, it is up to you to draw your own conclusions as appropriate”.

We will, Lartaun, we will. If what you say is true, perhaps Manchester United are not the only ones to blame for this deal falling through.

What Lartaun de Arizmendi has claimed is one view, we explained the view more critical on Manchester United earlier, read it here

Article from Tom Coast. Tom has spent much of his life in France, speaks several languages and helps Sport Witness get real insight on stories from across French football and beyond.

Follow us on Twitter @Sport_Witness

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