Sunday 18 August 2019

United to sign €93m Maguire as he becomes world's most expensive defender


Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire

Sam Wallace and John Percy

The long-running Harry Maguire transfer saga finally came to an end yesterday when Leicester City accepted an £85 million (€93m) offer from Manchester United that makes the England international the most expensive defender in history.

Leicester had refused to budge on their valuation of the player and the deal was only signed off by chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha when United told Leicester's director of football Jon Rudkin that they would meet the original valuation, which could reach £90m (€98.5m) with add-ons.

At that point it became simply too good a price for Leicester to turn down and the club felt that it was right that Maguire, who has handled an awkward situation well, should be allowed to leave.

There was no question of Leicester accepting any less than their original figure and they were confident that the player would played his part this season had United walked away from the deal.

It seals a remarkable transformation in the career of Maguire, 26, who joined Hull City from Sheffield United for £2.5m almost five years ago to the day. Then, struggling to make the Hull team, Maguire was sent on loan at Wigan Athletic in February 2015.

He only became a first-team regular at Hull under Mike Phelan at the start of the 2016-'17 season that ended with relegation from the Premier League - and he will work with Phelan again at Old Trafford.

Maguire's record fee eclipses the £75m that Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil van Dijk in January last year. The Dutchman has turned out to be a wise investment and Maguire will hope that he delivers the same impact for United.

For Leicester, now, the question is how they invest the proceeds from a player who cost them just £17m from Hull two years ago. The club are satisfied that former United defender Jonny Evans and Turkey international Caglar Soyuncu, 23, are a strong first-choice pairing to go into the season with.

They also have high hopes for the Croatian Filip Benkovic, 22, who has made just one first-team appearance to date.

Nevertheless, they have looked at Brighton's Lewis Dunk and Burnley defender James Tarkowski, both capped by England, as well as Bournemouth's Netherlands international Nathan Ake. Tarkowski has a £50m (€55m) release clause for teams in the top six.

Although Leicester are ambitious to break into the top six, they are increasingly seen as an excellent option for promising young players who want to establish themselves at a high level before moving on to the biggest clubs.

In particular, Rudkin has established himself as one of the leading talent spotters in the game and is fundamental to the club, especially after the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha last October.

The United squad were in Wales last night ahead of a friendly against AC Milan at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff this evening. It was unclear when Maguire would be joining up with his team-mates.

The personal terms are understood to have been a formality and the player arrived for his medical yesterday.

There remains considerable business for United to complete before the transfer deadline on Thursday. The futures of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are still to be resolved and, as of last night, it was not clear whether the French midfielder had travelled to Cardiff with the squad for the AC Milan game.

Lukaku is wanted by Juventus and Inter Milan and is valued at £90m (€98.5m) by United. Juventus striker Paulo Dybala is of interest to United and it is likely that he would be part of any deal for Lukaku.

United are eight days away from their season opener at home to Chelsea and have committed more than £150m (€164m) in fees on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Maguire, with the focus now on moving some of their big names out of the club.

As for Maguire, he will leave Leicester without rancour, the club having been clear with him from the start that they would only release him once their valuation had been met.

For a long time it looked as if United would not hit the £85m mark and Leicester were preparing for all eventualities ahead of the window closing at 5pm on Thursday. With Maguire having signed a new five-year contract last summer, Leicester held all the cards.

At United, he becomes the second most expensive signing of all time, behind the £89m paid for Pogba three years ago. He has won 20 senior caps since making his England debut in August 2017.

Leicester were due to play a final pre-season friendly against Serie A side Atalanta at the King Power Stadium last night. Maguire was given permission to miss the game on Thursday, as his departure grew closer.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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