Fan favourite Patrice Evra may have less than six months left at Old Trafford after the left-back’s agent failed to guarantee the player’s long-term future at Manchester United. Federico Pastorelo confirmed Internazionale’s interest in the United defender, whose contract runs to June 2012, but said there is no plan for departure during the winter transfer window.
Yet it is Pastorelo’s assertion that his client will decide whether to “stay or go” this summer that will concern United fans most. After all rumours of Evra’s departure have circulated for more than a year now and a new contract is yet to be signed.
“We will sit down in the summer with Manchester United and decide whether he will extend his contract or move on,” Pastorelo told Sport.co.uk on Monday.
“But for the moment there is nothing special to say on the situation. There has been interest, and I have read about Real Madrid but really the only official interest was from Inter Milan last summer.
“We had a long chat with Sir Alex Ferguson and it was decided he would stay in Manchester. His contract runs out in the summer of 2012 and there he is concentrating and focused on this season.”
Indeed, current signs point to a summer departure unless Evra receives a substantial pay rise in keeping with the defender’s status as the world’s leading left-back. That Evra is yet to publicly commit to the club, nor any talks on a deal yet confirmed, only adds credibility to the rumour of a summer move to the continent.
Moreover, the agent’s carefully chosen words, much like those of Nemanja Vidic’s representative last year, leave the player’s options open, while avoiding painting his client into a corner. After all, Madrid is still reportedly interested despite the improved form of Marcelo this season.
Nor should there be any surprise at Old Trafford that the player is prepared to play the market, despite Evra’s status as a fan favourite. After all, Wayne Rooney’s excessive new deal has set in motion substantial pay increases for United’s stars as wage inflation continues unabated. That John O’Shea’s proposed new deal is reportedly worth more than £80,000 per week puts into perspective Evra’s probable and realistic demands.
The player is in a strong negotiating position too. Evra’s departure – should it happen – will not only cause further disruption to United’s defence for the 2011/12 season but necessitate a potentially large transfer fee for an appropriately top class replacement. After all, Edwin van der Sar is now certain to retire in June and while Fabio da Silva has much promise, Rafael’s brother has little to no experience. With Gary Neville also likely to retire this summer and Wes Brown on his way to pastures new it promises to be a close-season of defensive change at the club.
This change comes just as Ferguson’s back four offers more solidity than ever with Rio Ferdinand’s return to long-term fitness and captain Vidic now settled at the club.
Any transfer will also rob United fans of a favourite son. Not only has Evra developed into one of the world’s finest during a five-year stint at Old Trafford but he is a character to boot. Ever quotable, the 29-year-old defender seemingly has the fans at heart.
But there is a counter argument to the populist view of Evra – one that few fans will accept. Ruthless perhaps, but Ferguson could lose Evra knowing that the player’s best years are behind him. Turning 30 in May, Evra will command a gradually lower transfer fee while earning superstar wages should he sign a contract extension in the coming months. It’s an economic imperative that will force the player out in June and rather than on a Bosman free in 2012 should a new deal not be agreed.
More to the point, Evra’s performances have noticeably dropped this season. A World Cup hangover perhaps but the Senegalese-born defender is yet to hit previous heights. While that is of course understandable – Evra’s part in the French World Cup rebellion has seemingly been punished with permanent exclusion from the national team – long-term decline will inevitably set in at some point.
That said, the player’s departure is not inevitable. After all, captain Vidic remained non-committal for months while speculation raged about a move to Milan, Madrid or Barcelona. The Serbian’s reward: a 30 per cent pay rise that will make the 29-year-old millions.
In the modern football market the choice is now Evra’s. Old Trafford or abroad, the Frenchman will be very well rewarded.