On Sunday, Borussia Dortmund announced the signing of Manchester United target Erling Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg for around €20m.
The Premier League club's issue was not the release clause but the conditions attached to the transfer. The biggest one of all is the agent brokering the deal, Mino Raiola.
This is the latest in a long line of issues Man United have had with this businessman.
It was former manager Alex Ferguson who first publicly outlined the difficulty the club faced dealing with the football super-agent,
"There are one or two football agents I simply do not like,” he explained his 2015 book, Leading, “And Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them."
I distrusted him from the moment I met him. He became Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent while he was playing for Ajax, and eventually, he would end up representing Pogba, who was only 18 years old at the time.
We had Paul under a three-year contract, and it had a one-year renewal option which we were eager to sign. But Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco. He and I were like oil and water. From then on, our goose was cooked.
Having received significant fees for the signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as well as dealing with the club during the ongoing Paul Pogba saga, Raiola is a familiar face in Old Trafford. Something the club are reportedly unhappy with.
Per the Guardian, Raiola and Alf-Inge Håland, the player’s father, had particular demands when it came to a percentage of a future transfer fee as well as the new buyout clause. The Athletic went one step further suggesting Raiola actually had control over a future sell-on.
— Laurie Whitwell (@lauriewhitwell) December 29, 2019
Fifa did announce a three-month ban from football for Raiola earlier this year but his control and influence has not been curtailed. In theory, clubs call the shots. In reality, influencers like Raiola complicate that process.
After all, it's less than a year since Pep Guardiola claimed Raiola had offered Pogba to his side: "Why he offer? He was interested in Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us?"
For his own part, Raiola reacted angrily to suggestions he orchestrated a complicated deal.
“I do not know if Manchester United are briefing this but if they are then they are covering their own loss and that I find strange and disappointing,” Raiola told the Telegraph over claims he created a buyout clause.
There was no fall-out between me and Ed Woodward. It was just a normal negotiation and the player has chosen a different path. If they want to blame someone then, fine, blame me but the player is happy. He has made his choice and we went through a normal process.
The 2018 edition of FIFA’s “Intermediaries in International Transfers” report the problematic development that is increasing fees demanded by intermediaries. It is an added dimension to an already complex transaction.
As much as it is an issue for Manchester United, this development has bigger implications for football. The balance of control is shifting, and clubs are increasingly concerned.