Liverpool are weighing up their second transfer of the summer while bitter-rivals Man United are left frustrated in their own search
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Manchester United must really feel like they pushed the old adage beyond its limits.
The Times reported on Saturday that the Red Devils have decided to switch attentions away from Mason Mount, after a third bid was rejected by Chelsea on Friday. Having already seen offers worth an overall £40m and £50m dismissed, their latest effort of £55m was also snubbed with it believed that the Londoners are holding out for an overall fee of £65m for the wantaway England international.
Reports prior to United’s latest bid being rejected insisted that it was a final offer, with the Red Devils willing to end negotiations. However, with Chelsea’s counter-offer broken down as at least £58m upfront with £7m in add-ons, they have offered to hold face-to-face talks to find a resolution that will suit all parties. It remains to seen if Saturday’s latest twist really is the end of Erik ten Hag’s pursuit of his first-choice midfield target.
Make no mistake, a resolution to Mount’s future has turned into a drawn-out saga, and one very much taking place in the public eye. For the record, this has displeased United bosses.
The MEN reports that United football director John Murtough has taken a ‘dim view’ of Chelsea’s strategy of communicating United’s bids through the club’s dedicated correspondents in London. Meanwhile, sources also suggest that the Red Devils’ ‘hands are tied’ due to the club’s finances.
But considering Mount is out of contract in 12 months, wants to leave, and has just suffered an injury-plagued campaign, there is a feeling that Chelsea are very much over-valuing the midfielder. And now United bosses have seemingly run out of patience.
Such a stance is not unique to Old Trafford, with Liverpool feeling exactly the same regarding an exorbitant asking price before they cooled their own interest in the 24-year-old. Instead, they moved for Alexis Mac Allister, snapping the World Cup winner from Brighton for a fee believed to be in the region of £35m less than two weeks after their 2022/23 season concluded.
If the Reds’ recruitment team were already patting themselves on the back after signing the Argentina international for a bargain fee, courtesy of a release clause of sorts, they can be even more pleased with themselves now considering some of the asking-prices being thrown around elsewhere.
In truth, Liverpool interest in Mac Allister was well-documented prior to his arrival, with his release clause ensuring such a transfer would never grow protracted. But the Reds have never been one for drawn-out sagas in recent years, preferring to get their business done quietly and efficiently behind the scenes where possible.
Cody Gakpo is the most recent example, with sporting director Julian Ward stepping up negotiations with PSV Eindhoven to thrash out a deal during an intense three-day period between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. While Liverpool had been linked with the Dutchman publicly, it had never gone beyond loose speculation, with the Reds’ sudden imminent deal catching many by surprise.
This of course has happened a number of times previously, with Liverpool signing the likes of Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino, and Fabinho, many of whom had been of interest to United in the first place, virtually out of nowhere. A much ‘cleaner’ transfer as a result, it is obvious why this method is a preferred way to conclude business – in total contrast to the ongoing Mount saga.
In recent years United have been left talking out in the open, while the Reds’ quickly and quietly get things done behind the scenes. But their hands haven’t always been so clean. Liverpool were forced to end their interest in Virgil van Dijk and publicly apologise to Southampton in June 2017, having been convinced they were signing the Dutchman just 24 hours earlier.
The u-turn appeared to be a direct result of Southampton’s move in reporting Liverpool to the Premier League for what they regarded as an illegal approach for the centre-back, with the Saints apparently also briefing journalists about a possible meeting between Jurgen Klopp and Van Dijk in Blackpool, in breach of Premier League guidelines.
Southampton bosses were reportedly infuriated with suggestions that the Netherlands international had agreed to join the Reds, with the centre-back’s own future the subject of a public saga at the time with the likes of Man City, Manchester United, and Chelsea all credited with interest.
While Liverpool had indeed persuaded the Dutchman to join the Reds despite the ugly saga, they would have to wait a further six months to officially sign him. Brought in for a club-record £75m in January 2018, that fee is money well-spent and then some in hindsight, Van Dijk would have cost less if not for such murky waters in which summer discussions took place. Ultimately, the club learned their lesson.
Of course, there are no such controversies when it comes to the negotiations for Mount. Just a very public back-and-forth. It is not the best look for either club in this game of transfer poker.
Having long since cooled interest in the Chelsea man, it remains unclear who Liverpool will move for next as they plot the second signing of their midfield revamp. But that doesn’t mean they have no plan, far from it.
That uncertainty is only in public, with a considered and controlled strategy ultimately in place behind the scenes. Khephren Thuram, Manu Kone, Ryan Gravenberch, and Gabri Veiga, are all on their shortlist, yet little is known about the Reds’ preference beyond that, with the quartet’s participation in Under-21s European Championships ensuring that patience is needed.
Regardless, rest assured that whomever Klopp does set his sights on next, it will not take four public rounds of negotiation to strike a deal and get them through the door.
And while Liverpool had to change transfer tack back in April, withdrawing from the race to sign Jude Bellingham in favour of multiple quality new arrivals instead of one marquee signing, they have remained in control of their recruitment throughout. Amicable negotiations ensure business is concluded swiftly and with mutual respect, with such a stance seemingly lacking at Stamford Bridge.
If United walk away from Mount, which the Sunday Times reported they are set to do on Saturday night, the MEN reports they have at least four other midfield targets to turn to.
But United’s frustrations have demonstrated exactly why the Reds moved on from Mount in the first place. With both North West clubs initially in for both players, one signed in half the time for virtually half the fee is obviously preferable.
The fact that Mac Allister reportedly snubbed Old Trafford in favour of Anfield, prompting them to push hard for Mount, makes it all the sweeter. With the Red Devils ultimately coming to the same conclusion regarding the Chelsea man weeks after Reds bosses, they have been left playing catch-up, slow on the uptake before being left stuck in an impasse with Chelsea, after watching Liverpool move first after turning their own attentions elsewhere.
And as the Reds now weigh up their next move while United continue to stumble, with Klopp wanting his summer business concluded as quickly as possible, they are already one step ahead of their bitter rivals ahead of reporting for pre-season on July 8. Whether that remains the case come the start of the new season, as they look to ensure last year was just a disappointing one-off, only time will tell.