The saga rumbles on: Phelan – “Work permit issues scuppered Ljajić deal”
Posted by nickogs20 on December 4, 2009
Not to drag this sorry saga out any more than is necessary or to labour the point, but Reds assistant boss Mike Phelan has had his say on the subject of Adem Ljajić’s collapsed move to United and has arguably only further complicated an already confusing situation.
Speaking in place of Sir Alex Ferguson at this morning’s pre-West Ham press conference, Phelan was asked why the young Serbian was no longer joining the club in January and had the following to say:
“We made a tentative approach to getting a work permit and the word we got back from the Home Office was we couldn’t get that through in time to get Adem signed in January. I don’t think money is an issue.”
“The point is do you lay out money for Adem knowing there is a possibility that you might not be able to get him? As it stands Adem Ljajic won’t be coming to Old Trafford in January.”
“We have a platform that allows young players to develop and get into the first-team. We looked at Adem and he has the potential to do that.”
“But sometimes you cannot fight these things. Sometimes you can get work permits, other times you can’t. Adem fell into the latter category, which is why we made the decision.”
Now I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering why, if work permit problems were the reason for the deal being cancelled, there was no mention made of this in yesterday’s statement confirming that decision? It seems bizarre that United would call into question Ljajić’s ability and development when they could simply have attributed the decision to the UK’s frustrating employment laws, especially as Phelan seems to confirm that – contrary to the released statement yesterday – the coaching staff did indeed rate the player and consider him to have first-team potential after all!
The work permit explanation also seems surprising in itself. You have to wonder why only a ‘tentative’ approach was made, and seemingly at such a late stage, when the club have had since January to sort something out – the ‘we couldn’t get that through in time’ claim seems a bit of a cop-out frankly.
Ljajić not being immediately and smoothly granted a work permit is no surprise -the Home Office stipulate that a non-EU player must have participated in 75% of his senior national side’s matches in the previous two years, and obviously Ljajić – as an 18 year-old yet to make win a full Serbia cap – didn’t meet that criteria. That said, numerous clubs have succeeded in securing work permits for young players who don’t fulfil this criteria via the ‘exceptional talent’ route.
The excellent United Rant quote a club spokesperson as telling them that “the advice we got was that those (‘exceptional talent’) provisions have been abused a little in recent cases and, with the tougher work permit rules in other areas, there is likely to be greater focus on proper examination of what constitutes ‘exceptional'”. While this seems perfectly feasible, it’s hard to imagine a more legitimate case for special dispensation under the ‘exceptional talent’ route than a youngster coveted by numerous top European clubs, who was first-choice for his club side (the reigning champions in Serbia) and his international Under-21 side at the age of just 17, and who had Manchester United willing to pay a fee in the region of €10m for his services.
We really don’t seem any nearer to knowing the truth behind the collapse of this deal, and the complete contradiction of yesterday’s official club statement by Phelan today only adds to the sense of unease at the way United have handled this whole situation. Just to further cloud the picture, Phelan also refused to draw a line under the deal when asked if there was any chance it could be resurrected in the future. Even so, it seems certain that Adem Ljajić’s footballing future lies elsewhere now, while United will hopefully learn some serious lessons from the embarrassing way this saga has played itself out.