Thought Levy was bad? - Man preventing United move for Herrera drives a harder bargain

Manchester United want Ander Herrera of Athletic Bilbao...but must get past Josu Urrutia first.

Real Madrid have been frustrated all summer by the astute and often deliberately difficult transfer negotiation tactics of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

Levy already had a reputation across England as being the man who drives the hardest bargain in football - and if teams in Europe were in any doubt, his recent deals selling Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid will have confirmed his status on the continent.

Manchester United have obviously felt this wrath before. Levy made them push all the way to bring in Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick - but if they thought that Athletic Bilbao would be comparative pushovers, they were wrong.

Manchester United made an approach for Bilbao’s creative midfielder Ander Herrera in the week, and are expected to make another bid for the player on Deadline Day.

But if you thought Daniel Levy drove a hard bargain, you have not heard of Bilbao president Josu Urrutia.

The difference between the pair is that Urrutia is not necessarily interested in just making money.

Urrutia is a one-club man, born and raised in the Athletic Bilbao mould; he is a man of principle - Bilbao principles - and he played for the club for 17 years.

The club is built around doctrines of ‘us versus them’ and last summer they proved just that in the transfer market.

They pushed Bayern Munich to the brink to sign Javi Martinez in 2012. Bayern had to pay his buyout clause of €40 million to snap him up, despite trying numerous lower offers.

The club also happily turned down lucrative offers for Fernando Llorente and Fernando Amorebieta last summer, preferring instead to let them leave for nothing this summer.

At Bilbao, contracts and a persons’ word are sacred, and most of the first team stars at the San Mames have buy-out clauses in their deals.

Herrera is believed to be no different, and until that clause is met (£30.75m) and Herrera personally tells Urrutia he wants to leave - he will be going nowhere.

And going on history, you can take that as verbatim.

Because Urrutia, who has been Bilbao president since 2011, is the only man who can claim to be a tougher negotiator than Daniel Levy in European football.

image: © Jack Tanner

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