Manchester United’s signing of Odion Ighalo was not the last minute decision it appeared, according to Foot Mercato.
The outlet claims that terms were agreed with the player on the 26th January, but that the player’s home club Shanghai Shenhua were reluctant negotiators and proved hard to draw to an agreement.
The report was confirmed by Ighalo’s agent Atta Aneke, who told Goal.com ‘I talked to Manchester United’s top boss [Ed Woodward] for a few days in advance. It was quiet on Thursday, and then I got the impression that nothing would happen.’
The Red Devils eventually got their man at the eleventh hour on deadline day and it was widely reported that the Nigerian was their fall back option after trying for other stars, including Bournemouth’s Joshua King, Southampton’s Danny Ings, Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki and even Brighton’s Glenn Murray.
The new revelation, however, confirms that Ighalo was far from last choice but that they had rather turned to other options because of the initial intransigence of the Chinese club.
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Ighalo is the club’s star player, having scored 10 goals in 17 games in 2019. They simply did not want to lose their man at any price.
Eventually, though, a deal was struck, following the announcement on January 30th that the Chinese Superleague would be suspended due to the coronavirus crisis in the country. The start of league, which was due to be on February 22nd, was delayed until further notice. Shenhua were then left paying a large salary for nothing and changed their stance on the loan.
There was still the stumbling block of the player’s wages, a reported £330,000 per week. It is understood that Shanghai insisted that United pay every penny of the salary until the end of the loan period – which from 1st February until 1st June would have amounted to £6 million plus add-ons.
The player is then reported to have agreed to a pay cut – of 50% according to The Mail – in order to secure his dream move to Old Trafford.
‘Suddenly, in the middle of the day on Friday, things started to move’ explains agent Aneke. ‘It was then at 11pm in Shanghai. It was hectic phone business. Everyone had to stay awake until five or six in the morning in Shanghai.’
Ighalo will be the first Nigerian to play for Manchester United’s first team and could make his debut against Chelsea on February 17th.