United Must Break the Bank (and Break with Tradition) for Januzaj
Adnan Januzaj’s father wants the best for his son.
In the spring of 2011, he left Anderlecht for Manchester with the then-16-year-old Adnan, who had joined United from the Belgian side for £300,000.
The thinking was that by taking care of his son’s affairs away from the football ground, Adnan would have the best chance to excel on it.
"My dad does everything for me [off the pitch]," Adnan told the Mirror in July. "He just tells me to work hard on the pitch, which is what I try to do."
On Saturday that work yielded a pair of goals in a 2-1 win away to Sunderland—a performance that did more for the playmaker’s ongoing contract talks than his father ever could.
Januzaj the player is currently embroiled in negotiations at Old Trafford.
Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus are reportedly tracking the talks (Mirror) and could possibly swoop for the 18-year-old if United, as is their track record with youthful prospects, low-balls the Brussels-born winger on a new deal.
There has often been the sense that United have included the history and allure of the club in compensation packages offered to young players—that the chance to work with the club’s staff and occasionally alongside the big names in the first team can somehow permit them to offer more modest wages than their competitors.
But in recent times the strategy has seen them lose some can’t-miss up-and-comers, notably Paul Pogba.
In July 2012, Pogba joined Juventus as a free agent, having failed to come to terms on a new contract with United.
Now 20, he is an important player for both the Bianconeri and France—exactly the sort of influential midfielder United are currently craving and pursued on various fronts during the summer transfer window.
But Pogba was hardly the first to depart Old Trafford under curious circumstances.
Whether for perceived selfish behaviour (Ravel Morrison), a generous repatriation to his homeland (Gerard Pique) or basic impatience (Giuseppe Rossi; Robbie Brady), United have jettisoned a steady stream of quality youngsters over the past decade—a pattern they must break in order to keep hold of Januzaj.
All the right things
So far Januzaj is saying and doing all the right things.
By all accounts he has settled comfortably in Manchester. He has a favourite take-out, has often been spotted shopping or going for a walk and, according to the Mirror, even has a girlfriend from nearby Altrincham.
He has also made friends in the United dressing room.
"I speak a lot with Patrice and Giggsy," he recently told the club’s official website, referencing veterans Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs.
"They have great experience. They’re big players at the club and have gone through everything I’m going through. Their advice is important."
But not as important as his father’s, and while he may be relying on his teammates for help on the pitch, there’s no question whose advice he’ll be taking off it.
"I don’t decide what happens with my contract," he told the Mirror.
"He is well looked after by his father," football agent Nico Vaesen revealed in an interview with the BBC.
And his father will look after him, whether or not United continue to do so.
Which is why it is absolutely imperative the club break their mould for Januzaj and ink him to a lucrative pact.
Football is already flush with ex-United prospects excelling at other clubs—the last thing the Red Devils need is for their latest blue-chipper to join that set.
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