Manchester United deal makes Phil Jones' dream come true
Blackburn Rovers last night stepped aside to allow Phil Jones to “follow his dream” of joining Manchester United.
Although Rovers have claimed Jones' switch to Old Trafford could eventually break their transfer record, United have not gone beyond the initial £16.5million offer that triggered a buy-out clause in the teenager's contract last week.
Even as Blackburn owners Venky's were refusing to sanction the deal when it was first put together last Wednesday and were fielding renewed interest from Liverpool over the weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson was secure in the knowledge Jones was not interested in going anywhere else.
So, once Jones' contribution to England's draw with Spain in their opening European Under-21 Championship group game was out of the way on Sunday night, further contact with Blackburn was made to assure the club any attempt at prolonging the transfer was futile.
Jones will formally sign a five-year contract once he returns from Denmark.
“Much as we would love him to stay on with us — and we made all efforts to convince him to stay — Phil has to finally follow his heart,” said a statement on behalf of the Rovers' owners, directors and manager.
Blackburn boss Steve Kean confirmed those efforts included offering to make Jones the highest-paid player in the club's history.
“The offer we made him was staggering for a 19-year-old, but it wasn't the money,” Kean said.
“Phil wants to play Champions League football now and we're not at that level.
“I'm sure we will be in the coming years and we gave it a real good try and made him a fantastic offer, but I understand why he wants to go now.
“We were hoping he was going to be captain of our club and captain of England, he's a fantastic prospect and I'm sure he'll be an England regular very soon.”
It represents a smart piece of business for Ferguson, who knew the 19-year-old was also coveted by Arsenal, and secures another important piece in a developing United team that now contains four of England's starting line-up last night.
In addition, the Old Trafford chief is hoping to complete the signing of Spain goalkeeper David De Gea, who produced an excellent performance in Herning, following Edwin van der Sar’s retirement.
However, Ferguson is not focusing purely on youth as he looks to rebuild in the wake of his club's chastening Champions League final defeat to Barcelona last month.
It is widely assumed Ashley Young's much-discussed switch from Aston Villa will be completed once the Midlands outfit have sorted out their managerial situation.
Ferguson is also trying to secure a replacement for recently retired playmaker Paul Scholes, although apparently it will not be Mesut Ozil, the Germany star whom United were interested in before he left Werder Bremen for Real Madrid last August.
“We thank Manchester United for their interest but Ozil is fine in Madrid and has no intention of leaving,” said the midfielder's agent Reza Fazeli.
With Wesley Sneijder giving out mixed messages over a potential departure from Inter Milan and Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp repeatedly stating he has no interest in offloading Luka Modric, finding someone to step into Scholes' shoes is not going to be easy.
“That is up to the manager,” laughed Scholes.
“You only have to look at the youth team and what they have done this year to see there is a lot of talent at this club. There are some great players, but the ones we have been linked with are great as well.”
Meanwhile, one of Ferguson's more bizarre recent captures, Bebe, is in talks with Turkish club Besiktas about a loan move. Ferguson broke the habit of a lifetime buy snapping Bebe up despite never actually seeing him play.
The transfer has not really worked out, with the 20-year-old making only seven appearances, scoring two goals.