Manchester United's hopes of signing Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera have disappeared after the Spanish club confirmed he wishes to stay in the Basque region.
As reported by Sky Sports' Francisco Acedo, sources from Bilbao have confirmed the 24-year-old is not willing to leave, despite interest from abroad:
"We know people are looking but the situation has not changed. Ander has us that he does not want to leave the club in this moment," revealed the club.
Herrera looked set to complete a deadline-day switch to United during the last transfer window, but David Moyes' bid to sign the player was halted in bizarre circumstances.
It seemed Moyes was on the verge of triggering Herrera's €36 million buyout clause—a fee which rises to €40 million in the summer, per Acedo's report—but the intervention of three "imposters" appeared to grind the potential deal to a halt, per David McDonnell of the Mirror:
The trio are said to have been involved in football deals before - they helped broker Javi Martinez's move from Bilbao to Bayern Munich last year - and were thought to be acting as intermediaries in the potential deal taking Herrera to United.
But the deal collapsed just an hour before Monday's 11pm transfer deadline because United felt the £30.5m buyout clause in Herrera's contract was simply too high.
The situation appeared to deter the player's willingness to join United, and in November 2013, he confirmed his intention to remain in Spain, per Nick Lustig of the Daily Star:
I am tired about this issue. People are going to think that I want an exit but it is not true. I have said already that I am happy in Athletic Bilbao and I am going to stay here.
Bilbao's latest reiteration of this statement suggests a transfer that once looked likely to go ahead should now be disregarded.
United's ailing midfield has stuttered throughout the season and appears severely underpowered compared to the club's rivals.
Should Manchester United fans be disappointed about missing out on Ander Herrera?
Moyes aimed to remedy this with the £27.5 million deal for Marouane Fellaini—a transfer that may not have happened if a move for Herrera was agreed—but the former Everton star hasn't comfortably settled into the team.
Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones—both of whom aren't natural central midfielders—have often been forced to partner Michael Carrick in the middle when Tom Cleverley is unfavoured or unfit.
Anderson—who has made just two Premier League starts this campaign, per WhoScored.com—is thought to be on the verge of securing a move to Fiorentina, reported by Simone Bargellini and Nadia Carminati of Sky Sports.
It appears Moyes will have to turn away from Herrera when replacing the Brazilian.
With just two weeks of the January transfer window left, and four days until United face Chelsea in a must-win showdown at Stamford Bridge, the Scottish manager needs to act quickly if the seventh-place strugglers are going to improve on a dismal season so far.