Reigning World Champions Manchester United have approached Dutch Eredivisie-side SC Heerenveen with an offer for cooperation, according to Frysian/Dutch newspaper Leeuwarder Courant.
Heerenveen-director Yme Kuiper declared in this article that "although the club is honoured to receive such an offer, they would like to continue alone down the path they have chosen."
The Frysians haven't slammed the door shut though, as Kuiper also stated that "contacts between the two clubs are good, and this may or may not lead to any form of cooperation in the near future."
I can understand both the offer the Red Devils have made and Heerenveen's reluctance to accept it. There are always two sides to a story.
Manchester is looking for partners on the European mainland because British work permit rules are hindering the club in signing players from certain countries, particularly South American countries.
In some European leagues, there are no such work permit rules, so youngsters can be bought, loaned to a club in such a league and left there to develop for a number of seasons.
An added bonus lies in the fact that Heerenveen has made a bit of a name in South America because of the spectacular development Brazilian goal-getter Afonso Alves has made during his spell at the club.
The current Middlesborough-striker bagged 45 goals in 39 games for the Frysians, including seven goals in a single match against Heracles Almelo.
Sounds peachy, doesn't it? A club would be getting potentially world class youngsters for free, so they can develop themselves at the club.
Well, there's also a down-side to the deal. Let's just take a look at one of the other sides Manchester United has strong links with, the Belgian side of Antwerp FC.
The Belgian team has received its fair share of talented youths on loan from Manchester, but most of them were around 18 or 19 years old, so they didn't really have an immediate impact in first team.
Fair enough, that's what talents do... At the same time they did start making any real impression in first team, these youths were recalled by the Red Devils for reserve squad duties back in Manchester.
I don't think these players will develop any faster from playing in reserves matches compared to playing actual first team football, even if the league standard is lower. Some things can only be learned by playing competitive football and I'm sorry to say this, but playing in the reserves is not the same as competitive football.
It's also rather harsh to recall players halfway through a season, especially when they have started to impress. A club is starting to rely and build on the presence of a certain player, only to see him recalled as soon as he starts doing well, which effectively forces the club to spend extra money on a replacement.
Last but not least, the feeder club has no say in which players are shipped their way, which makes any form of long term planning a bit difficult.
Imagine the horror when you've spent quite a bit on two new forwards, only to find out that your parent team is shipping two Brazilian U19 strikers to your club a few weeks before the new season starts...A waste of money, wouldn't you agree?
Heerenveen-director Kuiper agrees with me on this one. "Suppose we do agree to such a deal with Manchester United. The details of such a deal are very important. Will the parent-club be able to recall players halfway into a season?
"And what about a percentage of the profit when a player is sold? These are things that need to be worked out, but this development is an interesting one."
I agree with that last sentiment. It really is an interesting development and a testimony to the excellent reputation Dutch clubs have when it comes to nurturing young talents. But should a deal be struck, I really do hope Heerenveen make sure it's a beneficial deal for both clubs and not just for Manchester United.