As Jaap Stam was unveiled in Rome yesterday, and Manchester United looked for a replacement, it was revealed that Jason Ferguson, the son of the United manager Sir Alex, played a key role in the Dutchman's controversial £16.5m move from Old Trafford to Lazio.
Jason, who is a football agent, and the Manchester company that he works for, Elite, were thanked by the Italian club for helping the move go through. The company stands to make a large commission from the sale.
Jason was the agent who negotiated his father's new consultancy contract at United and is involved in a TV documentary about his father's last year as United manager. The Elite group, formed last April, also includes the Monaco-based Mike Morris (who was personally thanked at yesterday's unveiling of Stam in Rome), the licensed agent Francis Martin, and Dave Gardner, friend of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs.
Other agents have been concerned about Elite's growing ties with United. The company organised Giggs' testimonial and were behind the move to United of the Wigan goalkeeper, Roy Carroll.
Elite is also working on the attempts to bring in Laurent Blanc from Internazionale to replace Stam. Before Elite was formed, some members also had a hand in Fabien Barthez's arrival at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex insisted yesterday that the sale of Stam had nothing to do with the behind-the-scenes revelations in the player's recent autobiography. The United manager told the club's official website: "It is a football decision and you have to trust me on that. It is nothing to do with other [book] nonsense. I said that to Jaap. I wouldn't let an issue like that cloud my judgement. With the kind of money on offer from Lazio, it is a good opportunity to bring someone in. An offer came in at the same time we had more or less fixed up another player and the person we are bringing in can maybe help us to change the way we play at the back."
The identity of Stam's replacement remains unclear. Blanc played down reports that he is a target."I've had contacts with them, but it was in February or March," he said. "Since then I have not heard from them, nor my agent."
An Inter spokesman said there was "no reason" to sell Blanc and denied that the club's technical director, Gabriele Oriali, had spoken to a newspaper which quoted him as saying Inter would sell.
Another possible replacement is the Real Madrid defender, Ivan Campo, whose agent said yesterday that his client is on United's shortlist together with Blanc and is also, confusingly, a target for Inter.
While Stam talked in positive terms about his move to Lazio yesterday, he is still clearly pained by the manner of his departure and unsure about why United let him go. "I wasn't happy the way things were handled," he said in Rome. "I played with Manchester for three years, with success. And within two weeks, you're not wanted anymore."
Mickaël Silvestre may be the next United player to go, following a dressing-room rant by Sir Alex. This could leave the way open for his French compatriot, Bixente Lizarazu, to sign before Friday's Champions' League deadline. Silvestre was taken off at half-time at Aston Villa on Sunday after letting Darius Vassell get away to score and was subjected to Sir Alex's celebrated "hairdryer" treatment.
Bayern will be furious that United have renewed their interest in Lizarazu, but they gave permission for the player and club to speak a few weeks ago. The fee would be around £7m.Reuse content