Man United's Argentines as Lisandro Martinez seals £55m switch

Di Maria was a £59m flop and Veron’s failings led to a sweary Fergie rant while Tevez and Heinze were loved by fans but left under a cloud and 18-year-old Garnacho is a big prospect… Man United’s Argentines as Lisandro Martinez seals £55m switch

  • Manchester United have struck a £55m deal to sign Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez
  • He will become the eighth Argentinean to pull on the red shirt of United
  • The club have twice broken the British transfer record to sign Argentine players
  • Juan Sebastian Veron and Angel Di Maria, however, failed to make an impression
  • Carlos Tevez and Gabriel Heinze were popular but had acrimonious exits
  • Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero struggled to nail down a regular spot in the side
  • But there are big hopes at Old Trafford for academy star Alejandro Garnacho 

Manchester United have secured the third signing of the Erik ten Hag era after they agreed a £55million fee with Ajax for the defender Lisandro Martinez.

A versatile footballer who is strong aerially despite only being 5ft 9in and composed playing passes out of defence, Martinez could slot in either at centre-half or as a defensive midfielder.

The 24-year-old will also become the eighth player from Argentina to pull on the red shirt. Martinez has made seven appearances for his country and is likely to make many more.

We take a closer look at the previous Argentine footballers to have turned out for United and how they fared.

Manchester United are closing in on the £55million signing of Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez

Martinez worked closely with coach Erik ten Hag at Ajax and they will reunite once again

Juan Sebastian Veron

2001-2003; 82 matches, 11 goals

United had won three consecutive Premier League titles when they broke the British transfer record to sign Veron from Lazio in the summer of 2001. The £28.1million arrival was some statement of intent.

Veron was regarded as one of the world’s foremost midfielders and Sir Alex Ferguson was so determined he would be a success at Old Trafford, he pushed Paul Scholes forward into a secondary striker role to accommodate him.

Early signs were promising. Veron was named the Premier League player of the month in September 2001 having scored three times in four outings.

Sir Alex Ferguson welcomes British record signing Juan Sebastian Veron to United in 2001

There then followed a really disappointing decline which would demote Veron from a signing of great promise to an expensive flop. The player himself admitted the speed and intensity of the Premier League took a lot of getting used to.

He was never able to get as much time on the ball as he’d enjoyed in far better stints with Parma and Lazio in Italy and with Roy Keane to also shoehorn into the midfield, it was always square pegs in round holes.

By May 2002, Veron’s stock had dropped so far that Ferguson launched into an expletive-laden tirade at journalists who’d had the audacity to mention the drop-off in form.

Veron powers home a goal as United beat title rivals Arsenal during the 2002-03 season

‘You tell me, what’s wrong with Veron? It’s nonsense. On you go, I’m no f**king talking to you. He’s a f**king great player. Yous are all f**king idiots.’

It didn’t help Fergie’s mood that Arsenal would win the Double and apart from the odd glimpse of genius, Veron just didn’t get any better in his second season with the club.

United cut their losses in 2003, with Chelsea, newly enriched by Roman Abramovich’s roubles, buying him for £15m. Veron wasn’t a great deal better there.

Despite Ferguson sticking up for him, Veron’s time at United ended in expensive failure

Gabriel Heinze

2004-2007; 83 matches, four goals

The defender was well-established in European football by the time United paid £6.9m to sign him in 2004, having played in Spain with Real Valladolid and France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Gabriel Heinze was a popular figure among United fans but lost his place to Patrice Evra

Heinze didn’t waste any time in establishing himself as the first choice left-back at Old Trafford and was a fan favourite with the chant of ‘Ar-gen-tina’ often heard at Old Trafford.

He was the club’s player of the season in 2004-05, impressing in what was a transitional United team at a time when Chelsea were ascendant in the Premier League.

His good form was all the more impressive after a slight difference of opinion with captain Keane early in his time at United which left him sparked out on the floor.

‘The first thing you hear in English or in another language are bad words. He was looking at me and he says to me: ‘F**k off!’ And I knew that was a dirty word.

‘I stood up and the guy comes over to me. C’mon, I was only a kid. So I repeated it back to him, I said ‘f**k you!’

‘Then I don’t remember anything else…’

The rest of Heinze’s time at United was marked by bad luck. He picked up an injury and that resulted in the signing of Patrice Evra, who became Ferguson’s pick at left-back.

Heinze slides in to try and stop Kaka scoring for AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League semi

His exit from the club was acrimonious. After becoming frustrated at Fergie for his lack of playing time, Heinze demanded a move to Liverpool, which was obviously never going to happen.

United turned down a bid from their rivals and Heinze end up moving to Real Madrid instead.

‘I don’t have many regrets from my career as a footballer, but that episode with Ferguson is one of them,’ Heinze said in 2011.

‘I’m impulsive and strong-willed and this has got me into trouble at times, which was the case at the time when I left United.’

Carlos Tevez

2007-2009; 99 matches, 34 goals

Tevez caught United’s eye when he scored at Old Trafford to keep West Ham in the Premier League on the final day of the 2006-07 season.

Despite the controversy over who actually owned him, United signed him that summer and Tevez would form a formidable partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney that would deliver United a Premier League and Champions League double in his first campaign there.

Carlos Tevez dons an Argentina shirt as he lifts the Champions League trophy in 2008

Tevez made vital contributions in that European run, netting five times and scoring United’s first penalty in the shootout win over Chelsea in the Moscow final.

He followed up 19 goals in that season with 15 in the next but, rather like Heinze, things would sour.

Because of the terms of his move, Tevez was effectively on loan and when a permanent contract wasn’t forthcoming, Tevez made no secret of his dissatisfaction.

Tevez pitched in with some crucial goals during his two seasons as a Man United player

With the fans chanting ‘Fergie, sign him up’, United belatedly entered into talks and were willing to pay a fee of £25.5m to secure him on a five-year deal.

However, the club was informed that Tevez wanted to leave and, worse still, he wanted to sign for their cross-city rivals Manchester City.

The move happened after torturous negotiations and promoted the famous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboard in the city centre.

Despite this betrayal, Tevez is generally considered to have been a hit during his two seasons at United.

He left for Manchester City in 2009, leading to this infamous billboard in the city

Angel Di Maria

2014-2015; 32 matches, four goals

As with Veron, United were willing to smash the British transfer record to sign an Argentine player. As with Veron, bringing in Di Maria from the European champions Real Madrid was a signal of intent as Louis van Gaal took over.

But Di Maria would prove to be a colossal £59.7m failure, probably the worst signing of the post-Ferguson era and symbolic of the drift and decay that was setting in at Old Trafford and is still going on.

Di Maria started well enough, scoring goals in his first few games and winning the club’s player of the month award in September.

United paid almost £60m to bring Di Maria from Real Madrid as Louis van Gaal took over 

But he then suffered a hamstring injury and his form dipped dramatically. His family suffered the trauma of an attempted burglary at their home in Cheshire in the January and struggled to settle in England.

That, combined with the turgid brand of football the team played under Van Gaal, a contrast to how Real Madrid played, saw Di Maria produce ever-diminishing returns.

In the end, his one season with United before they flogged him to PSG for a £15m loss, produced just four goals and a heap of disappointment.

Despite early encouragement, Di Maria struggled to settle at United and left after one season

Marcos Rojo

2014-2021; 122 matches, two goals

Another Argentine arrived in the same summer as Di Maria and he would last a little longer. Centre-back Rojo was a £16m buy from Sporting Lisbon but he was never able to assert himself as a first-choice at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal played him 26 times during that first season but was then angered when passport issues prevented Rojo travelling on United’s pre-season tour to the United states in 2015. The player was fined £140,000 as a result.

Marcos Rojo tackles Chelsea’s Eden Hazard during a FA Cup quarter-final in 2017

His second season ended with success in the FA Cup and his most productive campaign for United was Jose Mourinho’s first, even if he missed the Europa League final win over Ajax through injury.

But Rojo became increasingly injury prone and fell down the pecking order under Mourinho and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his United career fizzled out.

He was allowed to rejoin his childhood side Estudiantes on loan and then, in February 2021, moved back to his homeland to sign for Boca Juniors.

Sergio Romero

2015-2021; 61 matches

The goalkeeper was a popular figure despite spending his entire career at the club as David de Gea’s understudy.

Mourinho used Romero as his cup goalkeeper and that included the majority of their 2016-17 Europa League run, including the final against Ajax.

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was understudy to David de Gea but still played 61 times for United

After that, however, appearances could be few and far between with De Gea usually in imperious form. Romero departed when his contract expired after the 2020-21 campaign, keeping 39 clean sheets in 61 matches overall.

Romero moved on to Italian club Venezia.

Alejandro Garnacho

2022-present; two matches

Garnacho, 18, is an Argentina youth international, albeit one born in Madrid, that United hope will be their next bright young thing.

He shone in their FA Youth Cup success last season, scoring twice in the final against Nottingham Forest as they won the trophy for the first time since 2011. Garnacho celebrated with an Argentina flag on the Old Trafford pitch.

Alejandro Garnacho celebrates winning last season’s Youth Cup draped in his national flag

That form was rewarded when Ralf Rangnick handed him a senior debut against Chelsea towards the end of the season.

Argentina are obviously keen to persuade Garnacho to pick them over Spain, inviting him to train alongside Lionel Messi and Co ahead of World Cup qualifiers in March.

One to watch for both club and country.

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