Emi Martinez for £12.9m? Six other ‘derisory, insulting’ bids including Man Utd and Arsenal offers

Ian Watson
Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Wilfried Zaha and Paul Pogba were all the subject of lowball offers.
Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Wilfried Zaha and Paul Pogba were all the subject of lowball bids.

Remembering when Man Utd began the post-Fergie era by offering peanuts for two Everton stars, and the time Arsenal embarrassed themselves while leaving Wilfried Zaha hanging…

Prompted by Inter Milan’s £12.4million offer for Emiliano Martinez, that caused Villa to laugh their c*cks off, here are five other bids that clubs really shouldn’t have bothered with.


Man Utd: £28million for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini
Remember Man Utd’s glorious summer of Moyes and Woodward? Good times…

A decade has passed since Woodward spent his first off-season as David Gill’s successor playing at being Bertie Big B*llocks. Letting it be known that he was flying back from Australia to conduct ‘urgent transfer business’ was one highlight. Scrambling like f*ck on deadline day just to make a signing of any sort was another.

That single senior recruit was Fellaini. For a fee of £27.5million. Just a fortnight before, United had tried to sign him and one of England’s best left-backs Leighton Baines for pretty much exactly the same figure.

‘Insulting and derisory’ was how Everton described United’s bid of £28million for Fellaini and Baines. Broken down, it was £16million for the Belgian; £12million for Baines.

Everton would hardly have broken even on Fellaini having paid Standard Liege a similar amount five years previously. The midfielder had a £23million release clause in his contract that was active until the end of July. At the start of September, on a desperate deadline day, the Red Devils paid £4.5million more than that and £11.5million more than their original offer just to be able to stick a United scarf above Fellaini’s magnificently coiffured bonce.


Real Madrid: £27.6million and James Rodriguez for Paul Pogba
Pogba spent most of his summers at Old Trafford trying to escape. In 2019, he pushed for a move to Real Madrid. But Real, evidently, didn’t share his desperation to make it happen.

Pogba had already said he was up for ‘a new challenge’ having flunked the previous one, while Mino Raiola was telling anyone who would listen that his client wanted to move on. United kept their counsel, supposedly valuing their player in the region of £150million – laughable in itself – and they commented only to tell Real to do one when, at the start of August while Pogba was fannying about in pre-season, they received a cash-plus-player bid from the Bernabeu.

It amounted to £27.6million and Rodriguez, who was surplus to requirements at Real and Bayern, where he had just spent the previous two seasons on loan. Apparently, Real valued Rodriguez at around £50million. A year later, they gave him to Everton for free.

The offer confirmed United’s suspicions that Real didn’t have the means to buy Pogba, no matter how much the player fancied moving to Spain. They had already spent up on Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo. Reports at the time suggested they would shift their attention to Donny van de Beek instead.

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Arsenal: £40million for Wilf Zaha
During the same summer in which Real left Pogba hanging, Arsenal did the same to Zaha.

The Gunners, under Unai Emery, were desperate for a winger and Zaha was gasping to move. The only problem was Crystal Palace and their valuation of their academy graduate. With Zaha under contract for four more years, and the sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka already topping up their bank balance, they insisted on £120million to sell.

Arsenal offered a third of that amount. And they wanted to pay it over five years. And they wanted a discount if they coppered up to pay early.

Palace labelled Arsenal’s offer as ’embarrassing’ and, though Zaha didn’t take it well, that was an end to the matter. Because shortly after, the Gunners gave Lille £72million for Nicolas Pepe, a decision which later prompted an internal investigation.


Man City: £36million for Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe could fetch £258million in the market this summer, just for a season in Saudi. He has already moved for around £160million after he joined PSG permanently in 2018. Two years before, City tried to buy him for £36million.

To be fair to City, that was back in 2016 when Mbappe was just breaking into the Monaco team as a 17-year-old. But everyone was alert to the striker’s potential. Barcelona were said to be sniffing but City made their move towards the end of the window.

In Pep Guardiola’s first window as City boss, they offered £36million. That wasn’t all. Apparently, they promised to pay up to £100million in add-ons, inspired perhaps by the structure of Man Utd’s deal with Monaco for Anthony Martial a year before. Monaco were never going to fall for it. Not over Mbappe.

A year later, they agreed a deal with PSG that guaranteed them £160million after loaning the teenager to the Parisiens for a season first.

James Ward-Prowse prepares to take a set-piece for Southampton in their draw at Manchester United.

Aston Villa: £25million for James Ward-Prowse
Villa can’t complain too strongly about Inter taking the p*ss over Martinez. They’re not immune to trying it on themselves…

Two years ago, with Jack Grealish on his way for £100million and shortly after signing Emi Buendia from the Championship for more than £30million, the Villans went to Southampton and plonked £25million on the table for Ward-Prowse.

The midfielder was an England international and captain at St Mary’s. He had four years remaining on his contract so from Saints, the response to a ‘derisory offer’ was swift and abrupt.

Villa didn’t go back and Ward-Prowse signed a contract extension. Two years later, West Ham have seen Saints’ relegation as reason enough to take the p*ss with the same offer from Villa that was given the shortest of shrifts.


Tottenham: £50million for James Maddison and Harvey Barnes
West Ham aren’t the only club trying to capitalise on their rivals’ misery. Like vultures around a rotting carcass, Premier League sides like little more than lowballing their relegated foes.

Tottenham tried it with Leicester earlier this summer when they offered £50million for the Foxes’ two best players.

Perhaps not Daniel Levy’s most derisory act but Spurs knew what they were doing and they knew it wasn’t going to fly. Not long afterwards, they coughed up £40million just for Maddison.

Barnes has subsequently joined Newcastle for £38million, raising £78million with relative ease.