Erik ten Hag has revealed that Lisandro Martinez initiated his transfer move to Manchester United in the summer after urging his former manager to hijack Arsenal’s move.
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The Argentina international, who helped his country win the World Cup on Sunday – swapped Amsterdam for Old Trafford in July in a deal worth £57m.
But, before United’s interest emerged, it was Arsenal who had been making the major push to sign the 24-year-old, with Mikel Arteta reportedly keen to use him as an inverted left-back.
Talks had evidently got to an advanced stage, with Ten Hag now revealing that Martinez phoned him up and asked him to make an offer so he could move to Manchester instead of north London.
‘It was Martinez himself who wanted to leave Ajax,’ the United head coach said in a special interview for the Christmas edition of Dutch publication Voetbal International.
‘If we had not taken him, he would have gone to Arsenal. They wanted him anyway; he was their number one priority there.
‘Licha [Martinez] called me at one point and said, “Boss, listen, I’m leaving Ajax anyway. I can sign with Arsenal but if you want me I’ll come to Manchester United!”
‘So then I thought that I shouldn’t shoot myself in the foot, or United either. ‘He really wasn’t going to stay in Amsterdam, that was out of the question. So then we struck [a deal] and everything worked out.’
On being reunited with the defender at Old Trafford, he added: ‘I had such a good time at Ajax and we experienced that process together. We brought Ajax back to the top of Europe from scratch. That project has been so dear to me.’
Ajax chief Edwin van der Sar revealed this year that Arsenal had approached them over Martinez but their offer was not satisfactory, with the Gunners believed to have valued him at around £30m.
Van der Sar explained: ‘Arsenal came earlier for Lisandro, but it was an amount where we said, “Thank you very much for the offer, but we’d rather keep the player than start negotiating.”
‘With United, it was a little bit different. Over the years we have had a few conversations: Daley Blind, Donny van de Beek. My job is making sure I make the best decisions for Ajax.’