Manchester United are still confident of signing £28.9million target Ander Herrera after his club, Athletic Bilbao, released a public statement claiming they had rejected a bid for the midfielder.
“The Athletic Club wishes to report that this week rejected an offer from Manchester United FC, estimated at 36 million euros, to transfer the federation and economic rights of the player Ander Herrera.”
Deal was close this week
Reports earlier this week claimed that the Old Trafford club were on the verge of completing a deal for Herrera and that he was flying in to London, before heading to Carrington in order to put the finishing touches to the deal. Bilbao's rejection is somewhat puzzling, considering the Manchester United deal is reportedly moving ahead because they activated his buyout clause.
The Basque club's statement has not worried Manchester United because, according to the Manchester Evening News, club officials are still confident a deal will go ahead because they are prepared to activate his buyout clause.
The report also claims that Herrera has already been shown around the Red Devils' training complex and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward will continue to move forward and get the transfer completed.
Respected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague claimed on Twitter that politics are behind Athletic Bilbao issuing the statement, with the aim being to publicly make it look as though they are putting up a fight to hold onto one of their more prominent players.
Athletic employ a policy of only signing players from the Basque region where Bilbao resides, which means their options for recruiting new talent are limited and so they must try to get as much out of any sale as possible.
However, the MEN report claims that Manchester United and the San Mames club have good relations and that the Old Trafford officials are not particularly worried about the public face being put on the deal in Spain.
Herrera looks like being the first of a series of signings going into the club this summer as new manager Louis van Gaal sets about rebuilding a squad that looked weak and short of quality in finishing seventh in the Premier League, costing their former boss, David Moyes, his job.
A quality addition
24-year-old Herrera has been at Bilbao since joining from Real Zaragoza in 2011 and has steadily built a reputation as one of La Liga's most talented young midfielders. Manchester United will remember him from his part in the Basque club's sensational performances in knocking Sir Alex Ferguson's side out of the Europa League in 2012.
Van Gaal will take up his post at Old Trafford once he has completed his duties as Netherlands manager at World Cup 2014 in Brazil, and he is inheriting a squad that needed an injection of creativity in attacking midfield after a season that was short on invention.
Herrera is obviously, having coming through the Spanish youth system, a technically gifted player and is versatile enough to play in a wide role if needs be, but is probably most effecting floating behind the front man or men. Juan Mata, who joined Manchester United from Chelsea in January, plays a similar role and their is potential for the pair to work effectively in tandem, switching positions in attacking midfield.