The long-running Harry Maguire transfer saga finally came to an end on Friday morning when Leicester City accepted an £85 million offer from Manchester United that makes the England international the most expensive defender in history.
The King Power club had refused to budge on their valuation of the player and the deal was only signed off by chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, known as “Top”, when Leicester director of football Jon Rudkin was told by United that they would be meet the original valuation which could reach £90 million with add-ons.
At that point it became simply too good a price for Leicester to turn down and the club felt that it was right that Maguire, who has handled an awkward situation well, should be allowed to leave. There was no question of Leicester accepting any less than their original figure and they were confident that the player would have stayed and played his part this season had United walked away from the deal.
It seals a remarkable transformation in the career of the 26-year-old Maguire, who joined Hull City from Sheffield United for £2.5 million almost five years ago to the day. Then, struggling to make the Hull team, he was sent on loan at Wigan Athletic in February 2015. He only became a first team regular at Hull under Mike Phelan at the start of the club’s 2016-2017 season that ended with relegation from the Premier League – and he will work with Phelan again at Old Trafford.
When Maguire joins up with the United squad for the first time he will do so as the most expensive defender in the game’s history, his fee having eclipsed the £75 million that Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil Van Dijk in January last year. The Dutchman has turned out to be an eminently wise investment and Maguire will hope that he delivers the same impact for United.
For Leicester now the question is how they invest the proceeds from a player who cost them just £12 million from Hull City two years ago. As things stand the club are satisfied that the former United defender Jonny Evans and Turkish international Caglar Soyuncu, 23, are a strong first choice pairing to go into the season with. They also have high hopes for the Croatian Filip Benkovic, 22, who has made just one first team appearance to date.
Nevertheless, they have looked at Brighton and Hove Albion’s Lewis Dunk and the Burnley defender James Tarkowski, both capped by England; as well as Bournemouth’s Holland international Nathan Ake. Tarkowski has a £50 million release clause for teams in the top six.
Although Leicester are extremely ambitious to break into the top six, they are increasingly seen as an excellent option for promising young talent who want to establish themselves at a high level before moving on to the biggest clubs. In particular Rudkin has established himself as one of the leading talent spotters and traders in the game and is fundamental to the club, especially after the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha last October.
The United squad were in Wales on Friday night ahead of a friendly against AC Milan at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday evening. It was unclear when Maguire would be joining up with his team-mates. The personal terms are understood to have been a formality and the player finally arrived for his long-trailed medical on Friday.
There remains considerable business for United to complete before the deadline on Thursday. The future of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are still yet to be resolved and as of Friday evening it was not clear whether Pogba has travelled to Cardiff with the rest of the squad for the AC Milan game. Lukaku is wanted by Juventus and Inter Milan and is valued at £90 million by United. The Juventus striker Paulo Dybala is of interest to United and it is likely that he would be part of any deal for Lukaku.
United are eight days away from their season opener at home to Chelsea a week on Sunday and have committed more than £150 million in fees on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Maguire with the focus now on moving some of their big names out the club.
As for Maguire, he will leave Leicester without rancour, the club having been clear with him from the start that they would only release him once their valuation had been met. For a long time it looked like United would not hit the £85 million mark and Leicester were preparing for all eventualities ahead of the window closing at 5pm on Thursday. With Maguire having signed a new five-year deal last summer, Leicester held all the cards. At United, he becomes the second most expensive signing of all time, behind the £89 million paid for Pogba three years ago.
Leicester were due to play a final pre-season friendly against Serie A side Atalanta at the King Power on Friday night. Maguire was given permission to miss the game on Thursday as revealed by Telegraph Sport, as his departure grew closer.