Odion Ighalo’s future remains unclear as he enters the last day of his loan contract with Manchester United.
Both Ighalo and United are reported to be keen on extending the loan until the end of the season, which could be the end of August if UEFA schedules the remaining Europa League fixtures for that month as they have indicated.
However, the Nigerian is wanted back by his home club Shanghai Shenhua for the start of the Chinese Superleague, which is pencilled in for the end of June or beginning of July.
This has led to an impasse in negotiations, with the Chinese side telling United that they would have to sign Ighalo on a permanent deal, or extend the loan with a guaranteed £20 million-plus purchase at the end of the season, if they want to keep him longer.
It has been reported that United are reluctant to pay in excess of £20 million for the 30-year-old, with his wages also an issue.
There have been further reports that Shenhua have offered Ighalo a bumper new contract worth £400,000 per week for four years, but that they will take it off the table if he demands to stay on loan to the end of the English season.
Whilst all this is going on and the clock is ticking, the striker continues to train as normal with the rest of the United side.
It has been generally assumed that if time runs out today, Ighalo will be on a plane back to Shanghai tomorrow, but this will not be the case as there remains a travel ban on foreign nationals returning to China. There is, as things stand, no exemptions for footballers and thehindu.com reports that the superleague may have to kick off without its foreign stars and coaches.
In addition, The Mirror claims that the restart date for the Chinese league may be pushed back a little.
This means that negotiations could continue beyond today.
‘United officials are hopeful that will give them more time to reach an agreement for the player to see out the Premier League season with them’ the outlet reports.
‘The two clubs have now spoken about Ighalo’s situation and it is hoped an agreement will be reached early this week.’
It would seem that everything hinges on the dates chosen for the Superleague to resume and for foreign nationals to be allowed to return. Until those dates are known, Ighalo may find himself in limbo, training with United without a contract in the hopes of playing when the Premier League resumes in two and a half weeks’ time.
United might have to finish their Premier League season at neutral grounds as the authorities try to ensure player safety. How much do you know about those neither-home-nor-away games the Red Devils have played in the past? Take our quiz below to find out.