This month three Premier League teams have been linked with a controversial switch for Zulte-Waregem midfielder Bernard ‘Junior’ Malanda-Adje.
One of the stars of a team that went to the brink of a shock Belgian League title glory last season, the teenager was said to be keen on a move away from the unfashionable outfit this summer - and he was prepared to go to extreme means to get his own way.
Utilising a little known Belgian youth labour law, the 18-year-old managed to break his contract with the club - essentially making him a free agent.
The player went AWOL as the club tried to convince him to stay and an exit became more and more likely.
Now while around £500k in compensation was likely to be expected from any tribunal, it would still be a bargain for a player considered one of the top talents in Belgium. His future at the Belgian club looked sealed last week, when Zulte confirmed he was to be omitted from their Champions League squad for the upcoming season. It was at that point, it became very clear he would not be staying at the club.
But any hope of seeing him playing Premier League football in the foreseeable future appear to be dead - as VfL Wolfsburg announced his signing this week.
The clubs general manager Klaus Allofs confirmed the news yesterday:
‘’We are actually sorting out deals of a transfer. We have been tracking the player for quite a long period of time. He has been defensive midfielder as much as a central defender, and has been in great form in both roles for his club."
Since then the deal has been confirmed - however he will return to his former club on loan until the end of 2013. He will then carry on his development at the Volkswagen Arena until 2018.
Speaking of the move Malanda himself stated:
"The Bundesliga is one of the strongest leagues in the world. I want to take the next steps here."
It is yet another victory for the Bundesliga over the Premier League in the race for new players this summer and Malanda certainly has the ability to be a player these teams regret getting hold of.
image: © mikehamm