Ed Woodward insists Manchester United are ready and willing to break the British transfer record if new manager Louis van Gaal decides they need to do so.
Woodward endured a frustrating first summer as United’s executive vice-chairman last year, as mooted transfers for Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo failed to materialise.
United have paid upwards of €50million (Dh313.4m) for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, but as has been the case for the last few years, the biggest transfers have taken place away from Old Trafford.
Real Madrid signed James Rodriguez for €80m (Dh395.7m) yesterday and Barcelona paid ¤94m (Dh465m) for Luis Suarez earlier this month.
When asked whether United would be willing to pay a similar amount for a player, Woodward said: “It is in our capabilities. The club are not afraid of doing that – spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market.”
Such a move would cause United to break the £50m record transfer fee paid by Chelsea for Fernando Torres in 2011. Woodward insists neither he nor the club would be fazed about being responsible for such a big deal.
“Whether it’s a record or not doesn’t really resonate with us,” Woodward said. “What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United.
“We are in a very strong financial position. We can make big signings.
“I get pointed in the direction of a target that the manager wants and there is an assessment of what that might cost and I’ll negotiate hard to do the best I can on the trade.”
It is understood United remain interested in signing Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund, although the club expect the Germans to fight hard for the centre-back, given that they have already lost Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich this summer.
Manager Jurgen Klopp said: “What was today’s rumour? Mats to Man U? For how much? 20 million? For a sum like that, you can forget about it anyway.”
Klopp also insisted midfielder Marco Reus is going nowhere, adding: “Marco and Mats will be playing for us next season. I can assure everybody that there is no sign at all that either of them want to leave.”
Dutch internationals Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and Kevin Strootman are other Van Gaal targets, although a move for the latter may have to wait until January as he is struggling with the knee injury that kept him out of the World Cup.
United have been told that Angel Di Maria is for sale, which could prompt Van Gaal to make an enquiry for the Real Madrid winger.
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is also on Van Gaal’s wish list, although United have not, contrary to reports, agreed a swap deal for the defender that would see either Nani or Chris Smalling heading the other way.
It is understood that Juventus’ Arturo Vidal is not being considered as a potential signing.
If Woodward landed two or three of those targets, he would go some way to enhancing his reputation, which took a hammering last summer when his only capture was Marouane Fellaini.
“You gain credibility through experience and through time,” he added. “You can’t expect credibility from day one and I wouldn’t ask that of the fans.
“I don’t mind reading (criticism) because it’s extremely important for me to listen to the fans. Criticism can change into positive comments over a period of time.”
Real Madrid on Tuesday signed Colombian striker James Rodriguez, the top scorer at the World Cup, from Monaco on a six season contract.
Spanish media said Real paid about €80 million for Rodriguez, making him one of the most expensive players ever. Neither club gave a figure, but Monaco said it was "one of the biggest transfers in football history."
Rodriguez, 23, scored six goals for Colombia at the World Cup to win the Golden Boot award. A spectacular volley against Uruguay went down as one of the best goals of any World Cup.
Shortly before the announcement, Rodriguez posed for pictures and gave the thumbs up sign as he left a Madrid clinic where he passed a medical test. "I am very happy. We will talk later," he told reporters.
The Colombian striker is Real's second major signing in five days as they prepare for a new season of confrontation against eternal rivals Barcelona.
German midfielder Toni Kroos moved from Bayern Munich on Thursday, just days after the 24-year-old helped Germany win the World Cup.
Real have also been linked with a move for Keylor Navas, the goalkeeper whose heroics helped Costa Rica reach the World Cup quarter finals. Navas plays with Levante in the Spanish first division. Rodriguez had only been at Monaco for one year but his sizzling performance at the World Cup made him the number one target for many European clubs.
In a FIFA.com poll released Monday, his volley against Uruguay in the last 16 was declared goal of the World Cup by more than four million voters — three quarters of those who took part. Monaco paid EUR45 million ($60m) when he signed from FC Porto of Portugal.
Monaco said in a statement that it had not wanted to sell Rodriguez but that it was "proud to have carried out one of the biggest transfers in football history."
A new 'special' one
Spanish sports daily Marca, which has close ties with Real Madrid's board, said Real will pay EUR75 million straight away and up to five million more in add ons.
If confirmed, the fee would make Rodriguez the fifth most expensive player in history behind Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo (both of Real) and Neymar and Luis Suarez of Barcelona.
Rodriguez went to the World Cup as Colombia's second best known striker. But Radamel Falcao was injured in January leaving the starring role to his Monaco teammate as Colombia reached the last 16 for the first time.
Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez compared Rodriguez to Argentine legends Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the "players who succeed in doing things because they are special."
The Colombian has made it clear for a long time that it was the Spanish league that he wanted to get to. "The Spanish league is a league that I've always watched — it's different from the English League, which is very physical," he told FIFA.com in an interview in November.
"The game in Spain is more about technique, and about getting more touches on the ball. That's why I like it so much."
Rodriguez started his career at 16 for Colombian second division side Envigado FC and built up an immediate reputation. In 2008, he was signed by Argetinian side Atletico Banfield where he became known as "James Bond of Banfield" after scoring an extraordinary left-footed lob for the unfashionable side in February 2010.
He moved to FC Porto in Portugal where more spectacular goals brought three league titles in three seasons. Monaco bought him in May 2013. Rodriguez prides himself most in having been dubbed 'El Pibe Nueva' (the New Kid) in place of Carlos Valderrama, Colombia's star of the 1990s, who was called 'El Pibe'.
"It's an honour to be considered the heir to 'El Pibe' at my age," he told FIFA.com. "Since I was little, I admired Valderrama and I always wanted to be like him. He was my hero and I am proud to wear the number 10 for Colombia while helping the national team return to the World Cup."