Manchester United failed with a bid of “three or four million” for Gareth Bale when the Welshman was making waves at Southampton, says George Burley, with the sale of Theo Walcott to Arsenal leaving the Red Devils frustrated.
Sir Alex Ferguson was forever in the market for top young talent during his iconic reign at Old Trafford, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney snapped up when still in their teens.
A similar deal was sought for Bale, who burst onto the scene at Southampton to quickly register on the radar of leading sides in the Premier League.
United were eager to buy into that potential – several years before returning for the same player – but saw their efforts to add another exciting prospect to the ranks at Old Trafford come to nothing.
Former Saints boss Burley told The Athletic of a player he handed a senior debut to at the age of 16: “He was like a winger playing at full-back.
“Manchester United were interested in him. I remember going to a hotel and speaking to Sir Alex and his chief executive.
“We’d already sold Theo Walcott for £12 million and they offered three or four million so we said ‘no way’.
“I think they were a little bit worried about his defensive side of the game, which we were working at, but he could handle that.”