COMMENT: Oh, the irony. Bold? Foolhardy? Or something inbetween? The week Manchester United (finally) clear one record-breaking wage off their books, they strike terms over another...
In the end it still cost 'em. £9m. Nine million quid to persuadeAlexis Sanchez to cut ties with them and sign a three-year contract with Inter Milan. Injuries? Form? Bad luck or bad attitude? That's a debate for another day. But United's accountants can rest a little easier no longer having to write that £550,000-a-week wage into the club's books.
However, in the very same week United's powerbrokers, after marathon negotiations, had convinced Alexis to move on, it was breaking they'd struck similar world record terms with Jadon Sancho.
Okay, okay, £340,000-a-week isn't what United offered Alexis to convince him to snub Manchester City two-and-a-half years ago. But it's pretty close. And more significantly, if this deal with Borussia Dortmund does go through, Sancho will arrive as the highest paid 20 year-old ever seen in the game. That's if this is all true...
Well, the short answer is: it's not. Not even close. Yes, United have offered Sancho a significant hike on his current £100,000-a-week terms. But he won't arrive on the wages being touted across the German and English press. There are assurances that Sancho can eventually reach that mark, but there's zero chance the England international will walk into the United dressing room boasting such a contract.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, is wary of what such a move would do to the morale inside his squad. And even more significantly, the club's vice-chairman exec Ed Woodward, has no interest paying a largely unproven 20 year-old such a salary. As we've mentioned, talks between parties have included targets and salary rewards. But the record wages being claimed are the stuff of fantasy calcio. It does seem, long after the days of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and even Alexis, Woodward has learned his lesson.
You only need ask Jude Bellingham's minders about the vice-chairman's current attitude towards salaries. The teenager would be a United player today if Woodward had just accepted the salary his camp were seeking. Dortmund had. Just as they'd accepted the demands of Erling Haaland's minders six months earlier. But £55,000-a-week for a 17 year-old is crazy money. Perhaps in the past, Woodward and United would've rolled over and approved. But this is the Solskjaer era. And again, when you're playing Mason Greenwood at the same age last season on 800 quid a week, the idea of an unproven Bellingham arriving on his Dortmund wages simply couldn't be considered.
But that's not to say United haven't prioritised Sancho's signing. They have. Though from Germany - specifically Dortmund - they're insisting nothing has arrived from United. Not formally, nor informally.
"So far there has been no contact between Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United in matters of Sancho," said BVB's managing director Hans-Joachim Watkze last week, clearly namechecking United in the process, "not even indirectly or through alleged intermediaries.
"There has never been an offer for Jadon."
However, Watzke curiously did in the same soundbite claim United knew their asking price as there was "a proposed announcement of what should be paid at least". So whether Watzke clumsily let the cat out of the bag or not, United know Dortmund are demanding €120m for Sancho to leave in the coming months.
Again, even in today's market, that's huge money for a 20 year-old. Crazy. But Dortmund will hold steadfast. Particularly with Sancho unlikely to 'do a Dembele' and down tools. The player and his agent, Emeka Obasi, have been kept informed of BVB's plans throughout the saga. And according to Watzke, both men understand the club's valuation: "I don't expect any difficulties. Jadon has accepted that, he's a very pleasant, fair guy."
Indeed, a pay-rise is now on the table. It'll be Sancho's third since his arrival from Manchester City three years ago. The new £170,000-a-week terms matching Mats Hummels' wage packet. Only Marco Reus is paid more. Sancho and Obasi can't say Dortmund haven't treated him well.
So on United's side of the table, there's still a lot to do. Sancho still wants the move. They know that. But the debate in recent days is if by putting down £100m they'll get their money back over the next seven or eight years. Solskjaer has argued yes. As have others Woodward takes soundings from. And as much as Watzke has cast doubt on the situation, there's no need to read between the lines: they will sell. It may not reach the €120m Watzke is claiming, but Dortmund are prepared to sell Sancho to United in the coming months.
And even if it is a record fee for United, there's no chance of Sancho inheriting their coveted No7 shirt on record wages.