Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera has admitted he was flattered by interest from Manchester United, while suggesting the Premier League club have more questions to answer over their conduct when failing to complete the deal on transfer deadline day.
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Herrera appeared set for a move to Old Trafford, but the transfer fell through as the summer transfer window shut on Monday night, amid scenes of farce with United either unwilling or unable to pay his €36 million release clause and the related taxes and charges.
The midfielder told reporters at Athletic’s new San Mames Berria that he had liked hearing of the interest from such a huge club, but had not even got so far as to discuss personal terms directly with United.
"I feel very flattered to see that one of the biggest clubs in the world like United made an offer for me,” Herrera said. “At no moment did either I or my agent reach an agreement with United. At no moment did I speak with United.
“I do not know if they spoke with my agent, but after that they would need to persuade me [to leave Athletic]. They had to pay the €36 million clause and, then, make a more persuasive case to me than Athletic. I never saw myself elsewhere."
The proposed transfer had taken a surreal turn on Monday afternoon with three unknown ‘representatives’ photographed entering the Liga de Futbol Profesional offices in Madrid, but then leaving an hour later without finalising any deal.
United sources told ESPN that red tape and technical issues were to blame, before reports subsequently emerged in the UK claiming that the three Spaniards were somehow ‘imposters’.
Marca soon identified the three as bona fide experts from the Bilbao law firm Laffer Abagados which had helped Javi Martinez and Bayern Munich to successfully finalise his move to Germany 12 months ago in similar circumstances.
Ander said he did not know who the three men were, while suggesting that United might be able to shed more light on the matter.
"The lawyers who were at the LFP offices did not represent me,” he said. “I did not even know who they were. There are questions which United must answer. "
Athletic president Josu Urrutia revealed last Friday that United had made a bid -- thought to be €30 million -- but that the Basque club were holding firm and would not sell.
Reports in AS then claimed that Herrera himself had offered to take a pay-cut to help push the deal through. The 2011 European Under-21 Championship winner champion insists he holds no grudges with either Athletic or United over how the events had played out.
“I knew that United were going to make an offer, but we all know the way the club acts [in these situations],” he said. “I am proud they made an offer for me, and that Athletic wanted me [to stay]. "I do not feel used by United, they made a formal offer.
"Athletic did not want to negotiate, I value that. I am relaxed as I have behaved well. And the club is loyal and honest with what it transmits."
United may now return with another offer for Herrera, 24, during the January window, but Ander himself says for now he is just focused on performing for his current club at their new stadium.
"I am very happy at Athletic,” he said. “I just have in my head to play a good season at [the new] San Mames. I am going to keep showing my commitment to Athletic, as I have done since the first day I arrived. San Mames is spectacular. The pitch needs to settle down but we are going to be envied on a world level."