Bad moves: Four deals that have stained United's name

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The Independent Online

Of all the transfers that angered John Magnier and JP McManus, Tim Howard's move from the New York Metrostars to Manchester caused the most disquiet.

Of all the transfers that angered John Magnier and JP McManus, Tim Howard's move from the New York Metrostars to Manchester caused the most disquiet.

The sheer size of the fee Manchester United paid to the Swiss agent, Gaetano Marotta, is staggering. For a transfer fee of £2.3m, Marotta was paid £700,000 - some 30 per cent of the total amount. Put into perspective, when buying Louis Saha, Manchester United paid Fulham 10 times the transfer fee New York Metrostars demanded for Howard, and the agents' fees were roughly similar - £750,000. Significantly, this was the first transfer United negotiated after Magnier made his concerns known.

Although he played no obvious part in the transfer of Howard, Marotta then paid £139,000 of this to Mike Morris. Although Morris is not officially part of Elite, he is frequently described as the company's "fourth director". David Gardner, one of Elite's directors, once acted as Morris' driver. Manchester United claimed they had no idea why Morris was paid, since Marotta obtained Howard a work permit as well as conducting the transfer. Morris subsequently invoiced Marotta for $225,000 [£124,000] as "commission". Later, Morris charged Leeds United an even bigger fee, £450,000, for "arranging" the loan of Roque Junior from Milan.

Juan Figer, Kleberson's agent, is no stranger to difficult transfers with English clubs, having been involved in Edu's troubled move to Arsenal.

However, this was nothing compared to the controversy sparked by Manchester United's attempts to buy another of his players, Kleberson. Mario Celso Petraglia, the president of Kleberson's club, Atletico Paranaense, claimed he was phoned by United's then chief executive, Peter Kenyon, and ordered to drop Figer and negotiate through two agents nominated by the Old Trafford board.

One of these was allegedly unlicensed, in strict contravention of Fifa regulations. Figer complained he had lost out on a fee of £480,000, an allegation Manchester United vehemently denied at the time.

The club's then director of communications, Paddy Harveson, claimed it was "absolutely not correct", although the matter was passed over to be investigated by the Football Association.

The greatest question of all the transfers conducted in Sir Alex Ferguson's name was why anyone needed to be paid £300,000 to "persuade" Roy Carroll to leave Wigan Athletic to join the biggest club in world football.

Carroll was signed through the Elite agency in July 2001 as cover for Fabien Barthez, although by the end of the 2002-3 season the Ulsterman had performed well enough to have ousted the French World Cup winner from United's side. He also briefly replaced Tim Howard for a number of games, including the FA Cup semi-final victory over Arsenal.

For a player of Carroll's quality the size of the fee was not excessive, although the amount paid to the Elite agency most certainly was. Under Fifa recommendations, an agent is supposed to take up to five per of the transfer fee as a commission, but Elite's cut was more than double that. And what was there to discuss? At the time that the transfer was first put to Wigan, their manager was Steve Bruce, a long-time friend of Ferguson, while Carroll was short of options, with proposed moves to first Leicester and then Everton having broken down.

The transfer of Jaap Stam was curious in several ways. It was thought at first to be a piece of vindictive score-settling by Sir Alex Ferguson, angered by allegations made in Stam's autobiography that Manchester United had illegally approached him while he was playing for PSV Eindhoven.

It was the first time anyone could remember an agent being formally thanked during an official press conference as Mike Morris was by the Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti. It was the first major transfer Jason Ferguson became involved with.

Stam's sale, far from being a personal vendetta by the manager was sound. The £16m fee was good value, although Lazio did everything they could to avoid paying it, and Manchester United badly needed to recoup some the £47m spent on Juan Sebastian Veron and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Morris, who has very close relationships with Elite but is not part of the company, made the bulk of the £1.4m fees agents were paid for brokering the deal.

However, although Elite played no official part in the transfer, they still submitted a hefty bill to Lazio.

This was believed to be for vital information in securing the deal, namely that Ferguson would be willing to sell Stam and that information could only realistically have come from Jason Ferguson.

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