As Liverpool are set to sign Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo for a record British transfer fee of £111million, we can’t help but recall the time Manchester United could’ve signed him for just £4.5million.
Let’s paint the picture. Cast yourself back to the summer of 2020 and it was all change at Old Trafford. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the helm, the club wanted to switch things up with how they approached the transfer market.
For too long the club had been guilty of overspending on over-the-hill stars and Solskjaer was desperate to rejuvenate the squad with a new-look youthful core.
Under his tenure, the club snapped up the likes of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri. While these players weren’t yet the finished article, United were building a formidable squad for the future.
With a youthful core led by Marcus Rashford at his disposal, Solskjaer managed to deliver a respectable second-place finish in the 2020–21 season, but things could have been even sweeter.
In the January transfer window that year, United tried their luck to sign a teenage Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, but the move ultimately collapsed due to a range of factors.
The hype around the Ecuador midfielder at the time was rife. He made his international debut as a teenager and his versatile nature meant that he was utilised in all sorts of positions.
As European clubs became aware of Caicedo’s talent, it was only natural that a club like United was in the market. With their new approach to transfers, this move made perfect sense.
The Guardian at the time recognised United’s new recruitment strategy was to sign the ‘best emerging global talent’ and Caicedo fit this bill to a tee.
You know the transfer speculation has romped up to the next stage when Fabrizio Romano is covering the story and he did just that in December 2020.
The transfer expert claimed United had ‘direct contact’ with Caicedo agents and a deal worth a mere €5million was in the works.
Manchester United are in direct contact with the agents of Moises Caicedo (Indep. del Valle).
The agreement on personal terms [5 years] won’t be a problem. €5m price tag.#MUFC ‘control’ the situation by weeks and will decide soon wether to complete the deal or not. 🔴🇪🇨
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 23, 2020
Caicedo himself added to the transfer speculation when he liked an Instagram post from the official Man Utd account at the time. The youngster even confirmed his desire to play for United earlier that year.
“My dream is to arrive at Manchester United,” he told Mundo Deportivo in May 2020. “I like English football a lot because it is a quick style of football.”
So with United and Caicedo both keen on the move, what could possibly go wrong? In the end, it proved to be a complicated negotiation process with Independiente del Valle.
The Manchester Evening News reported at the time that United pulled out of the deal because of ‘various intermediaries’ that made the deal ‘too messy’ to get over the line.
The report also included a quote from an unnamed source who described the negotiations as a ‘clusterf***’’ and so it’s no real surprise that the club pulled out.
In the end, Caicedo did get his move to the Premier League, but not to Old Trafford. Brighton managed to navigate the bumpy negotiations and landed a deal for the reported €5million fee.
“It has been a complicated transfer, due to the current restrictions, and there has been a lot of hard work across several of the club’s departments to get the transfer completed,” Brighton technical director Dan Ashworth told the club website.
“Moises has had a lot of interest from clubs across Europe, which is understandable given how well he has done. He’s been one the recruitment team has been aware of for some time and we are confident he is a player with a very exciting future ahead.”
The rest is then history. Caicedo has gone on to smash it with Brighton and now thoroughly deserves his blockbuster move to Anfield.
For United fans, he’ll now always be seen as the one that got away.
By Ben Stewart