Transfer Tales: Laurent Blanc

Wednesday 21 June 2023 16:40

Manchester United look set for a reunion with Laurent Blanc, when we take on his Lyon side in a pre-season contest next month.

The friendly on Wednesday 19 July is being staged at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh (buy tickets here), and it should provide a chance to catch up with one of the classiest central defenders of his generation.

But how did Blanc come to join Sir Alex Ferguson's side in 2001? Well, it was the end of a long pursuit by the Reds boss, who had admired the Frenchman for years.

By the time the deal was struck, the centre-back had reached veteran status, at the age of 35.

After selling the outstanding Jaap Stam, a cornerstone of the Treble-winning team, the manager tried again for the Inter Milan defender. Blanc was offered the chance to end his career at Old Trafford but repeatedly rejected Sir Alex's advances and opted to stay in Italy.

Not only had the World Cup winner ignored overtures whilst with the Neroazzurri, he had first caught the manager’s attention while starring for Montpellier and playing as a libero against the Reds in the successful European Cup-Winners’ Cup campaign, a whole decade earlier.

After a first failed bid in 1995, the determined boss was not to be denied.


“We weren’t looking for anyone else,” he asserted. “I have tried to sign Laurent maybe four times now – as recently as last season and when he was at Auxerre, Barcelona and Inter Milan. It was always the wrong time.

"We have followed him around the world and now we have got him. Forget about his age. I don’t know why people make an issue of that. Players these days take care of themselves so well that their careers are extended for much longer than you’dthink and Laurent is one of those cases.

"His experience alongside the Nevilles [Gary and Phil] and Wes Brown will be vital to them and will improve us.”

Watch Laurent Blanc's only Premier League goal - in the amazing 5-3 win at Spurs.

Blanc signed a one-year contract and was reunited with France colleague Fabien Barthez, whose forehead he used to kiss for luck before international matches.

He retired from football after extending his stay for another season and helping United win the 2002/03 Premier League title.