Manchester United Call Bayern’s Bluff Over Hargreaves

The transfer story has all the makings of a classic – the long chase (Ferguson admitted to approaching Bayern before the World Cup), the wooing (was Hargreaves taken to Old Trafford to meet with Ferguson after the England game?) and the threats (Bayern are willing to go to FIFA over Hargreaves).

And now, the center of all this mess, one Owen Hargreaves, is willing to push Bayern Munich to the limit by publicly demanding a move to Manchester United, despite being ‘warned’ by Bayern not to do so.

The bluster shown by Bayern and their anger is very real – after losing Ze Robeto and Ballack in one summer, they don’t want to lose another midfielder. It would leave them little time for replacements (although one imagines that Bayern already have a couple lined up), and would be damaging for their team morale AND title chances if they were to lose Hargreaves after already having lost Ballack.

However, both Hargreaves and Manchester United know that Bayern cannot force the player to stay against his wishes. They could continue to refuse to negotiate and force Hargreaves to honour is contract (which runs till 2010), but such a move will damage team morale – Hargreaves is a respected member of the team, and if he continues to fight for a move to Manchester United the situation could easily go the way that the transfer sagas of Gallas, Cole, Reyes and Diarra have gone.

Diarra has already moved, Gallas has been thrown in the reserves, Reyes is still waiting to hear from Madrid while Cole’s transfer should be completed in less than a week.

Do Bayern really want to throw Hargreaves – who has 4 more years on his contract – into the reserves? I don’t think so, and I don’t think it will sit well with them that they have to accomodate an unhappy, agitating player.

Manchester United know all this. They know that while Bayern Munich’s FIFA threat is a bluff they could act on, Bayern have nothing to gain and everything to lose by forcing Hargreaves to stay.

If, as the Guardian is reporting, Hargreaves will hold a press briefing today, a lot will hinge on what he says. If he backtracks and agrees to toe the Bayern Munich line, it’s all over as far as the transfer is concerned. On the other hand, if as expected Hargreaves will ask again for the transfer, Bayern Munich have little option but to cut their losses, sell for a high price and try to bring in a couple of replacements before the transfer period ends.

All Manchester United need to do is to keep nudging Bayern over the move – if the player wants out, United should be able to sign him this summer, even if it goes down to 31st August (a la Rooney).

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