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The story of the unfortunate turn of events for Man Utd’s £58 million signing 

The story of the unfortunate turn of events for Man Utd’s £58 million signing 
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In 2015, Manchester United signed Anthony Martial, making him the most expensive teenager in the world. This move was unexpected, to say the least.

Eleven days later, the Frenchman, donning the number nine shirt, made his United debut against Liverpool as a substitute. A few minutes later, he scored his first goal and his team secured a 3-1 victory.

Martial also scored the stoppage-time-winning goal later in the season, putting United in the 2016 FA Cup final and setting them up for their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Finishing the season with 17 goals in all competitions, he was a 20-year-old who seemed to have the world at his feet.

For a considerable amount of time, United supporters have taken great pleasure in the first scepticism shown by outsiders over Martial and the dissatisfaction directed towards the transfer sum that arrived from Monaco.

In terms of his initial contract, after the clubs negotiated an initial £36 million, the overall sum came to a little around £58 million, a figure significantly inflated by several add-ons. Monaco never received the full amount since the deadlines for two of the deal’s milestones kept passing without being reached.

During the first four years of Martial’s deal, United agreed to pay an extra £7.2 million for each of three performance-based goals. One was a reference to his goal-scoring prowess, another regarding his international experience, and a third regarding the desire that he would top all players worldwide.

A 25-goal-scored requirement was what Martial needed to achieve in the Premier League to activate the goalscoring clause. In his first season with a new team in a foreign nation, he scored eleven goals, so his start wasn’t the worst. However, it took longer than expected due to a variety of factors, including the additions of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in successive summers, the fact that he seemed unhappy about losing his jersey number, and a decline in his physical form.

During his first three seasons in the Premier League, Martial scored 24 goals. His most significant goal came in October 2018, during a historic comeback victory over Newcastle, which was preceded by rumours that Jose Mourinho was about to lose his job.

With the transfer price, that increased United’s investment in Martial to £44.2 million. However, that’s where it remained. The Red Devils may have saved £14.4 million on the total cost, but they surely would have been willing to spend the remaining amount to see him reach his best.

Martial also failed to fulfil the £7.2 million condition that required him to make 25 senior games for the French national by next summer. At the deadline, he only had 18 caps, but now he has 30. As of autumn 2021, Martial has not been called up to play for his nation. 

If the Frenchman had won the Ballon d’Or in 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018, it would also have activated the last clause. Even yet, Luka Modric became the first player other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win it since Kaka in 2007. At that point, Messi and Ronaldo were still unstoppable.

As his initial contract was about to expire, United did offer Martial a new one, which would have bound him to new terms in January 2019 for the next five and a half years. It felt like a brilliant move and a reward for patience when Martial scored 23 goals in all competitions during the 2019–20 season, which began a few months later and proved a turning point for the then-23-year-old.

Nevertheless, Martial never really took off, and his incredible season turned out to be a one-time event rather than the new normal. In 2020–21, he played in just 22 Premier League games due to injury. The struggling forward’s fitness issues persisted, and in an attempt to restart his career in a different setting, he even joined Sevilla on loan in January 2022, but to no effect.

Even though Martial scored six goals in 21 Premier League appearances last season, he is now way too far off from the unrestricted potential that once looked like it would blow up the league. 

Author

  • Simona Tomašević

    Master Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Westminster in London. Worked as a reporter in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and has journalistic experience at Sky Sports in London and DIEMA Sports at NOVA Broadcasting Group in Sofia, Bulgaria. Authority and expert person in sports betting and betting sites reviews.

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Master Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Westminster in London. Worked as a reporter in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and has journalistic experience at Sky Sports in London and DIEMA Sports at NOVA Broadcasting Group in Sofia, Bulgaria. Authority and expert person in sports betting and betting sites reviews.

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