Manchester United ended interest in Serbian teenage attacking midfielder Adem Ljajić because the Home Office refused to issue a work permit, according to club sources today. United yesterday confirmed that the proposed €10 million option on Ljajić, 18, would not be taken up despite the player due to join up with the squad in January.
Confusion over United’s withdrawal from the deal circulated yesterday, with a club statement initially suggesting that Sir Alex Ferguson had second thoughts about bringing the player in after monitoring his progress. However, Ljajić’s club Partizan Belgrade claimed that the deal ended over “United’s financial crisis,” with debts now spiraling to more than £700 million.
Faced with that charge the club was keen to clarify the situation, with Mike Phelan taking over for Ferguson in the morning press briefing.
“The situation with Adem was we went down the road of trying to obtain a work permit,” said United’s assistant manager.
“We made a tentative approach to getting him a work permit and what we got back from the home office or the people you deal with was that we couldn’t get that through in time for when we had to make a decision on Adem in January.
“The point was then do you lay out for only Adem knowing there is a possibility that you could or couldn’t get a work permit, so we decided that we wouldn’t.”
The club was not ready to make a €10 million gamble on Ljajić, with the player uncertain of being able to take up his job, a spokesperson confirmed to Rant this morning. The terms of the deal with Partizan apparently forcing United into a decision on Ljajić this January.
“When his progress was then set against the developments of other young players such as Tom Cleverley and Darron Gibson it was a deal we weren’t prepared to do,” a United spokesperson told Rant.
“We’re not saying he’s a bad player – just that when all things in his particular case are considered, it’s not the deal for us.”
Work permit regulations stipulate that a player must have represented his country at senior level in at least 75 per cent of matches over the previous two years. Ljajić, an under-21 international, does not qualify. However, special provisions for ‘exceptional talent’ exist, which United invoked to bring Anderson to the club in the summer of 2007.
“The advice we got was that those 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,” Rant was told.
While Phelan did not rule out pursuing Ljajić in the future, the deal for the highly talented teenager is essentially now dead.
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