Rasmus Hojlund listened politely to the pitch from the soccer government on the opposite finish of the video name, however when the dialog ended his thoughts was unchanged. Hojlund nonetheless needed Manchester United.
That resolve has given United consolation the striker they signed for €85million (£72.9m; $90.7m) is unwavering in his dedication to the membership, as a result of the person making an attempt to steer Hojlund in any other case was Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris Saint-Germain.
Al-Khelaifi has a observe report for influencing outcomes in European soccer, typically getting personally concerned, and this summer time additionally spoke to switch targets Ousmane Dembele and Xavi Simons to stipulate the French champions’ imaginative and prescient for them. Dembele and Simons, who was then despatched out on mortgage to Germany’s RB Leipzig, each agreed to affix PSG — however Hojlund declined.
PSG supplied Hojlund a better wage than the phrases he finally agreed at United, and made a gap bid of €50million to Atalanta, his Italian membership. Nevertheless, the pull of enjoying at Outdated Trafford was the overriding issue for a 20-year-old who mentioned on his unveiling that he grew up in Copenhagen as a fan of Sir Alex Ferguson’s serial Premier League title winners.
By that stage, Hojlund had additionally acquired acquainted over video calls with Erik ten Hag, and understood the will United’s supervisor had so as to add him to his squad.
Hojlund spoke to the Dutchman a number of instances earlier than signing and was instructed intimately how he would match into the staff. Ten Hag appreciated his skill to make repeat runs in behind, press very nicely, and go direct to attain. He felt he had an intuition to ‘odor’ objectives, whereas his bodily presence (he’s 6ft 3in/190cm) would supply United one thing completely different in assault.
These conversations have been additionally a possibility for Ten Hag to suss out the participant. As discussions developed, he grew to become satisfied of Hojlund’s sturdy character and suitability to deal with the stress of main the road for a membership with the dimensions and stature of United.
His persona was one of many key causes Ten Hag pushed for him over different striker choices. (The sight of Hojlund choosing up a megaphone to inform jubilant Danish followers their nation would get to subsequent summer time’s European Championship after beating Finland away throughout the current worldwide break could have come as little shock.) Ten Hag accepted Hojlund had areas of his recreation to enhance however considered him as a long-term participant for United; one who would work day-after-day to fulfil his potential.
Facilitating these calls was Kees Vos, co-founder of SEG, the company which represents Ten Hag. Vos went on to barter Hojlund’s contract with United and act for the membership within the switch, however solely after making six pitches to realize the participant as a shopper.
As a result of it was not simply main European golf equipment vying for Hojlund’s signature but additionally a number of international soccer businesses.
When it grew to become clear in the beginning of 2023 that Hojlund would tackle new illustration, a battle was ignited. Ivan Benes, proprietor of Boutique Transfers & Administration, had along with Hojlund’s agent Jens Orgaard Pedersen dealt with his strikes from FC Copenhagen to Sturm Graz in January final yr and from the Austrians to Atalanta seven months later, however now the world’s market leaders have been making proposals.
In the end, SEG, which Manchester Metropolis supervisor Pep Guardiola’s brother and agent Pere joined in 2021, emerged victorious.
Having first made contact through Marten de Roon, Hojlund’s Atalanta team-mate and an present SEG shopper, Vos had an preliminary interview with Hojlund’s father Anders. A second assembly adopted in Copenhagen: Anders was joined by Hojlund’s mom Kirsten and Vos gave a presentation about what SEG might present.
Then got here a visit to Bergamo, Atalanta’s house metropolis in northern Italy, for a face-to-face with the participant himself, and after that three extra conferences wherein detailed plans have been outlined. The entire course of has been described as very thorough and uncommon in soccer, with rounds of talks seeing the pool of businesses in rivalry develop smaller.
Hojlund signed with SEG on the proviso of gaining a switch from Atalanta, with Manchester United his desired vacation spot. The contract included a probation interval ought to both facet be dissatisfied with the connection. Phrase of Hojlund’s selection emerged in late Might.
Vos then set about pushing the switch with Atalanta. His forthright strategy precipitated some friction with employees on the Serie A membership — his temporary was to get a decrease charge for United — and managing director Luca Percassi finally declined to interact, as a substitute speaking to representatives at Base, led by co-founder Frank Trimboli with agent Paolo Busardo helping. Atalanta have an in depth relationship with Base, and the company is concerned in most of the membership’s outgoing offers.
It was primarily Percassi and Trimboli who spoke to United’s soccer director John Murtough and director of soccer negotiations Matt Hargreaves to agree a value for Hojlund, on behalf of Atalanta.
Lee Congerton, Atalanta’s head of senior recruitment, had introduced Hojlund to the membership from Sturm Graz and believed he was price €100million. United stored different choices open in case Atalanta refused to budge, notably Eintracht Frankfurt’s France worldwide Randal Kolo Muani, however by the point United took off for his or her pre-season tour of the US in mid-July it was clear all consideration was on Hojlund. United had by then proposed a number of of their very own gamers in part-exchange as a approach of offsetting the associated fee, together with midfielders Donny van de Beek and Fred, however Atalanta needed solely money.
Murtough was in New Jersey, San Diego and Houston with United, however flew again to England after the sport towards Actual Madrid within the latter metropolis on July 27 to assist finalise the Hojlund deal. In that interval Hargreaves took on a significant position for United. Hargreaves, who joined formally in June having been sports activities advertising director for Adidas, was anticipated by brokers to give attention to participant contracts however he grew to become closely concerned within the club-to-club talks for Hojlund and left a great impression with these he labored with.
United’s gamers stored observe of occasions whereas on tour, and through some downtime on the Estancia La Jolla Resort, United’s base in San Diego, winger Alejandro Garnacho mentioned with team-mates how he needed the membership to signal a striker who might assault crosses within the field.
United’s cope with Atalanta, for a assured €75million plus €10m in add-ons, was agreed on July 29, just a few hours earlier than Ten Hag took to the pitch in Triton Soccer Stadium on the College of California/San Diego for an open coaching session in entrance of greater than 100 followers.
It’s a charge that, whereas decrease than Atalanta’s authentic calls for, many within the trade regard as extreme primarily based on Hojlund’s observe report.
He was available on the market for a fraction of that value in the summertime of 2022, earlier than he left Sturm Graz for Atalanta for €17million. Hojlund didn’t come up in recruitment conferences again then when United explored their switch choices.
However then Hojlund’s purple patch after the World Cup break final November and December, when he scored 12 objectives in 16 video games for membership and nation, alerted United and the consensus amongst a number of well-placed scouts and brokers is that he’s a bona fide European expertise.
United got data that PSG made a second supply price €60m to Atalanta and have been ready to go to €80m. The French champions, nevertheless, deny such figures, with Al-Khelaifi valuing Hojlund at near their authentic bid. United additionally believed Tottenham have been real contenders for Hojlund at a value of £70m, however finally the London membership didn’t formalise their curiosity.
For some, the Hojlund switch brings to thoughts United’s buy of Anthony Martial in the summertime of 2015. The Frenchman was signed at age 19, having scored 15 objectives in 70 senior video games for Monaco of France’s Ligue 1, for a charge that rose to £44.7million. Martial has since scored 88 instances in 301 video games for United, a ratio that many would regard as failing to match the cash paid or stage of expectation.
Ten Hag will hope to see a greater return, each in appearances and objectives, from Hojlund throughout the following eight years.
There was then a delay to Hojlund’s unveiling due to a difficulty picked up throughout his medical in Manchester.
An MRI scan revealed indicators of a sizzling spot that might flip right into a stress fracture in his again. It’s the kind of harm gamers can get with out realising and even play by means of, however cautious administration is usually required.
At one stage it appeared United must re-evaluate the cash concerned within the switch, however Hojlund was despatched to London with deputy soccer director Andy O’Boyle for in depth testing, and the membership concluded he merely wanted a interval of restoration. Workers focused a debut towards Arsenal on September 3 within the final recreation earlier than the season’s first worldwide break, which might show to be correct.
The deal was confirmed by United on August 5 as Hojlund walked out of the Outdated Trafford tunnel earlier than the penultimate warm-up pleasant towards Lens. He signed a contract working to 2028 with the choice for an additional yr, which incorporates incentives and will increase over the period. The identical day, SEG publicised its involvement in an Instagram publish and through a press launch, which mentioned: “SEG represented each Rasmus and Manchester United for this switch.”
The participant’s mother and father mentioned in a press release of their very own: “The selection of SEG was a deliberate one. The switch to Manchester United comes on the good time, and it’s the proper step in his profession.”
United have up to now signed Robin van Persie and Memphis Depay as SEG purchasers, however the firm’s affect on the membership has grown since Ten Hag joined from main Dutch facet Ajax final summer time. Vos is a frequent customer to each the coaching floor at Carrington and Outdated Trafford, which has been famous by United employees and different brokers. Vos additionally labored on Sofyan Amrabat’s mortgage transfer from Serie A facet Fiorentina, with the participant’s long-term agent Mahmoud El Boustati, which was accomplished on the ultimate day of the summer time window.
Ten Hag trusts Vos and feels he can present market help in a wide range of leagues, in addition to act as a priceless sounding board. Workers are although alert to the stress such a dynamic has created, and purpose to protect towards conflicts of curiosity.
On August 27, Vos posted on Instagram an image of himself by the house dressing room at Outdated Trafford with the caption: “My spouse and I’ve a distinct which means of the phrase ‘house’ nowadays.”
With Hojlund secured, United have been happy to get work accomplished on their three precedence positions earlier than the beginning of the marketing campaign, having additionally signed Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount and Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana. Hojlund was completely happy too, having skilled disagreements with Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini and wanting to depart.
In a really perfect world, Ten Hag would have appreciated a Premier League-proven centre-forward to go along with Hojlund, who represents one thing of a chance at such a younger age and with solely 20 earlier begins in one of many large European leagues.
England captain Harry Kane was his first selection however United eliminated themselves from that pursuit in mid-June primarily based on the perceived general value of the deal. Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy had indicated a charge of £120million could be required and, in any case, there was an unwillingness to do a cope with one other English membership, whereas United have been instructed Kane’s wages would come near £30m per season. Murtough at all times felt it was unwise to get drawn right into a protracted negotiation with Levy that had no assure of a compromise.
The striker market was busy this summer time. Hojlund was on Bayern Munich’s record earlier than they pressed forward to signal Kane. Chelsea additionally requested for particulars on Hojlund, whereas PSG diverted from the Dane to signal Goncalo Ramos, a participant Ten Hag had name-checked beforehand and who was additionally admired by United’s head of recruitment Steve Brown. Ramos, 22, moved from Benfica on an preliminary mortgage earlier than an anticipated everlasting transfer subsequent summer time for €65million plus €15m. PSG additionally signed 24-year-old Kolo Muani late within the window for €90m.
One other identify talked about at United was Evan Ferguson, who had a trial with them earlier than he signed for Brighton from Irish membership Bohemians two years in the past. United requested the query in the direction of the top of final season however Ferguson, for his half, by no means had affirmation the curiosity was concrete and in any case felt Brighton was one of the best place for the 18-year-old to proceed his progress with common video games. On April 25, Ferguson signed a brand new contract working to 2028.
Ten Hag will hope Hojlund can construct on the glimpses of promise he confirmed in his 23-minute debut on the Emirates, 64 minutes towards Brighton, and 81 minutes at Bayern Munich. He has had an affect in all three appearances to this point.
Hojlund got here off the bench towards Arsenal and immediately pinned Gabriel Magalhaes and received the bodily tussle. His backheel to Casemiro teed up Garnacho’s disallowed objective and he offered an outlet for United to go extra direct from the again as they chased a winner earlier than the house facet scored twice late on to win 3-1.
It was a efficiency that echoed United employees, who felt he had been “a beast” in coaching. Hargreaves, for one, is claimed to be adamant United have secured a great deal for an actual star.
Hojlund thought he had scored on his first begin, a sensible end from Marcus Rashford’s cross to make the rating 1-1 towards Brighton. However VAR lower his pleasure quick, ruling Rashford had taken the ball past the byline. The boos that greeted Hojlund’s removing for Anthony Martial within the second half instructed a narrative of a efficiency that had precipitated pleasure.
United are happy Hojlund was capable of get his first official objective within the very subsequent recreation, as soon as once more manoeuvring neatly to get area within the field for a shot on his Champions League debut, which was aided by a deflection off Bayern Munich’s Kim Min-jae.
Earlier than Hojlund signed, Murtough projected how he won’t begin each recreation even when absolutely match, as Ten Hag appears to be like to mattress him into the English recreation. However already, amid manifold points within the staff, Hojlund is rising as a pivotal participant as a result of Ten Hag’s different choices have drawbacks: Martial doesn’t present the identical depth of urgent, and Rashford performs higher off the left. Circumstances are dictating that rotating Hojlund is not going to be as simple as deliberate.
United hope, although, he’s the long-term answer to an issue that has wanted to be addressed for years.
Further reporting: James Horncastle and Adam Crafton
(High photograph: Getty Photos; design: Eamonn Dalton)
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- How Manchester United signed Rasmus Hojlund: Ten Hag’s video calls, brokers’ scrap and turning down PSG
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