Saints opt to play hardball

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin (left) getting the better of Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney last season. The French midfielder will add steel and tenacity to United's midfield if he joins and the Old Trafford club want to ink a dea
Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin (left) getting the better of Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney last season. The French midfielder will add steel and tenacity to United's midfield if he joins and the Old Trafford club want to ink a deal before they leave for a tour of the United States.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

They won't sell Schneiderlin unless United come up with a bid closer to £27 million

LONDON • Ronald Koeman is resigned to the departure of Morgan Schneiderlin before the start of the season but the Southampton manager has warned Manchester United that the France football international will not be signed on the cheap.

Schneiderlin, who was absent through illness at his club's Staplewood training base on Monday but will travel with the squad for their get-together in Austria, was the subject of a £20 million (S$42 million) bid from United two weeks ago.

That offer was rejected but Southampton are prepared for another bid for the player to arrive.

United want to secure Schneiderlin before they depart on Monday for their tour to the United States.

However, they will have to up their bid to nearer £27 million to stand any chance of securing the 25-year-old midfielder.

"Every player has his price and we have experience as a club of selling players," Koeman said.

"Last season, we sold some players, and if there is interest in Morgan, then okay. But it has to be at the price the club wants.

"He is one of the key players for our team, an international player. And I don't think (the price) is a problem for Manchester United."

Asked if he was planning for the campaign ahead with Schneiderlin in the ranks, Koeman said: "No. Last season, we finally said, 'Stop all this business because we are not selling any more players after Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert had been sold'."

The manager added: "That was difficult for him but he came back after a few days with good motivation and had a great season.

"But we know the situation now. There is a lot of interest in the player. With a club like United, we know it's difficult to keep the player.

"But if they pay, then okay, we can make the transfer."

Koeman has already pinpointed Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie as a replacement for the Frenchman, should an agreement be struck with United.

While the Schneiderlin transfer inches along between both sides, Southampton are prepared to make a formal complaint to Fifa if Atletico Madrid sell Toby Alderweireld to Tottenham Hotspur.

The Belgium defender spent last season on loan at St Mary's from Atletico, in a deal that had been struck with a view to a permanent move for £6.8 million.

The Spanish La Liga club could cancel the buyout clause written into the deal by paying a fee of £1.5 million to the Saints but the deadline for the payment was missed.

Tottenham have subsequently moved for Alderweireld.

They have offered him a five-year contract while indicating a willingness to also pay Atletico £11.5 million for his services.

Yet, according to the agreement between Southampton and the Spanish club, Spurs are technically not yet entitled to speak to him or put him through a medical check.

Alderweireld had informed Southampton of his desire to return permanently to St Mary's at the end of last season, though his head appears to have been turned since by Tottenham's pursuit.

"Of course, there will be interest in the player," said Koeman.

"He is a good, strong defender and he had a good season with us.

"But we had a contract and Atletico were too late in paying back the option. But still, I believe Southampton is the best place for the player.

"He was missing playing football when he was a player at Atletico Madrid. At Southampton, normally he starts every game, and he did well.

"Let's wait and see what happens in the next few days."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'SAINTS OPT TO PLAY HARDBALL'. Print Edition | Subscribe