Manchester United's bungling, not any supposed 'impostors', were to blame for leaving Ander Herrera hanging in limbo during Monday's frantic final day of the summer transfer window, according to widespread Spanish and Basque press reports.
It had appeared that United were set to trigger the €36 million clause to release Herrera from his Athletic Bilbao contract, while the player himself had agreed to take a pay cut to help the deal through, and three 'representatives' were photographed entering the Liga de Futbol Profesional offices in Madrid to finalise the deal.
However, the trio left without completing the mooted transfer, with United sources telling ESPN that red tape and technical issues were to blame.
Reports subsequently emerged in the UK claiming that the three Spaniards pictured outside the LFP building were 'imposters', while the Old Trafford club moved to sign Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5 million just before the window shut on Monday night.
The 'imposter' claims have been scoffed at in Madrid and Bilbao, where the blame is being placed on United's shoulders. Marca names the three lawyers photographed as Guillermo Gutierrez, Alvaro Reig and Rodrigo Garcia, from the Bilbao law firm Laffer Abagados. This firm specialises in sports law, and were reportedly used by Javi Martinez and Bayern Munich to successfully negotiate the process of finalising his move to Germany 12 months ago in similar circumstances.
Marca headlined its story on the fiasco on Tuesday morning as 'Grotesque mess by United', while AS' Athletic correspondent Nika Cuenca called it an "amazing episode" which resembled one of legendary Spanish film director Luis Garcia Berlanga's classic farces.
United could return with another offer for Herrera, 24, during the January window, according to Marca, but it remains to be seen whether the player himself will now be open to joining the club after Monday's reports of confusion.
Herrera is expected to soon give his own version of Monday's events, perhaps as early as Tuesday lunchtime after training at Athletic's Lezama facility.