United boss Jose Mourinho was desperate to sign 17-year-old Swiss wonderkid Breel Embol before Schalke snapped him up for £17million.
It’s not often Manchester United are out-muscled in the transfer market by financially smaller clubs, but Schalke have confirmed that their new striker was high on the Portuguese’s wish list.
The Bundesliga side roped in promising teenager Breel Embolo from Basel for £17m in June after he scored nine times on his side’s journey to the Swiss title.
But the German club’s sporting director Christian Heidel has now claimed Schalke were not the only suitors for the talented 19-year-old.
“There are a number of reasons why we signed Embolo,” Heidel told the official Bundesliga website.
“First and foremost there are sporting reasons. It’s nothing new that he is a great player. There is a reason why Mourinho desperately wanted to sign him for Manchester United.”
United’s up front already boasts Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford – but Schalke were still worried Mourinho may try and beat them to their prize target, whom even Ibrahimovic rates very highly.
Embolo was part of the Swiss squad that reached the last 16 at Euro 2016 and has already been capped 14 times by his country, despite not turning 20 until February next year.
“We also see him as a player the Schalke fans can identify with, a bit like Benedikt Howedes, Leroy Sane and someone like Ralf Fahrmann,” said Heidel.
“Embolo had a similar role at Basel, where 80 per cent of the shirts they sold had his name on it. He is very open, is always smiling and makes it easy for people to like him.
“When we realised there was a possibility that we could miss out on signing him due to other clubs’ interest, we had to move fast.
“President Clemens Tonnies happily made his plane available. We flew out to Montpellier at 1pm and returned five hours later. We had wrapped up the deal in that short period.”
Being a speedy and clever forward Ebola could have bolstered United’s attack, adding pace, power and trickery to the squad.
He looks good on the ball and makes clever runs in behind, as well as being able to finish when he gets the opportunity.