Manchester United last night announced a new shirt sponsorship contract – worth a reported world record £80m over four years from June 2010 – but the deal "will make no difference at all" to their summer spending plans, according to a club source. United still have what is being described by insiders as a "£50m war chest", although "nothing like that amount of money will be spent in the transfer window".
It is understood that United's owners, the Glazer family, now have a "rainy day" mentality, anticipating the global economic slump may endure for a while, and perhaps dent corporate sales at Old Trafford next season. "In such circumstances, cash reserves are a good thing," the source said. "Money is available for players, and as a club we're comfortable where we are financially, but there's also a place for prudence."
United retained some prospect of spending half of the capital on the £25m needed to settle Carlos Tevez's permanent move to United. United pushed for a deal to retain Tevez's services during a "cordial" two-hour meeting yesterday with the player's advisers. Tevez will consider United's proposals after the forthcoming international games.
The new shirt deal, with Aon Corp, the world's largest insurance broker, will run from 2010 to 2014 inclusive, and is in line with the expectations that the Glazers believed could be achieved. It will replace United's current £14m-a-year agreement with the American insurance giant, AIG, which has been a victim of the global recession and has required a £100bn bailout from the US government.
"The new deal confirms the global appeal of Manchester United," said a club source. "We've had to endure a year of stories about how we'd struggle in the downturn to get a major shirt sponsorship deal but United's appeal is huge, and enduring."
The new deal will have no effect on United's ability to keep Tevez. "That decision is up to Alex Ferguson, and whether what seemed a good deal to him two years ago [to make Tevez a permanent signing] is a good deal now".
United have until the end of the month to decide whether to make Tevez's move permanent, although the player's advisers are thought to want him to move away, quite possibly to earn more in wages at Manchester City, who would also be more likely than Ferguson to guarantee first-team football.
The key man working on the Aon shirt deal for United was their commercial director, Richard Arnold. The contract was actually signed eight days ago in Rome, just a few hours before United lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final.
"We are delighted to be entering such an important relationship with a company of the stature of Aon," David Gill, United's chief executive, said.