‘I’m leaving, I can sign for Arsenal. But if you want me I’ll go to Man United’: Erik ten Hag reveals the phone call from Lisandro Martinez that robbed Mikel Arteta of his ‘top priority’ signing in a £55m deal
- Erik ten Hag claims Lisandro Martinez was set to join Arsenal over the summer
- Martinez followed Ten Hag to Man United after sealing a £55m move from Ajax
- The defender called his old boss to explain he was close to signing for Arsenal
- But after indicating his preference to join United, Ten Hag made the deal happen
- He has since gone on to become one of the Dutchman’s most important players
Erik ten Hag has opened up on the phone call with Lisandro Martinez which helped Manchester United hijack Arsenal’s move for the defender in the summer.
Martinez, who played a key role in Argentina’s triumph at the 2022 World Cup, followed Ten Hag to United in July after completing a £55million switch from Ajax.
His first few outings for the club did not go to plan, with Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher insisting the 5ft 7in centre-back would never flourish as part of a four-man defence in the Premier League after a 4-1 defeat away at Brentford.
Erik ten Hag (R) has revealed the call with Lisandro Martinez (L) that brought him to Man United
Martinez called Ten Hag to explain he was on the verge of signing for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal
Yet since those comments, Martinez has left Carragher red-faced by finding his feet in Manchester and producing a number of superb displays before helping Argentina become world champions.
He is now one of the first names on Ten Hag’s team sheet at Old Trafford, which will come as a huge frustration to Arsenal after they missed out on signing him last summer.
During an interview with Dutch football magazine Voetbal International, Ten Hag revealed how Martinez called him to explain that he was close to joining Mikel Arteta’s side, but would prefer to join him at United if the opportunity arose.
The Dutchman said: ‘Whether I found it difficult to get Martínez away from Ajax? I had such a good time there, how we experienced the process together. From scratch we brought Ajax back to the European top. That project has been so dear to me.
Ten Hag says the Argentine told him he would prefer to head to United if the chance was there
Martinez is then said to have got in contact with Arteta to let him know he would not be joining
That freed him up to complete a £55million switch to Old Trafford and reunite with Ten Hag
‘But Martínez himself wanted to leave Ajax anyway. If we hadn’t taken him, he would have gone to Arsenal.
‘They wanted him anyway, he was top priority there. Licha called me at one point: “Trainer, listen, I’m leaving Ajax anyway. I can sign with Arsenal, but if you want me, I’m going to Manchester United.”
‘Then I thought: I shouldn’t shoot myself and United in the foot either. He really hadn’t stayed in Amsterdam, that was out of the question. Then we struck and it all worked out.’
Arsenal were the frontrunners to prise Martinez away from Ajax before United entered the race, and after choosing to reunite with Ten Hag in Manchester the player is said to have called Arteta to inform him of his decision.
Journalist Ben Jacobs revealed on The Football Terrace that he got in contact with Arteta personally to let the Spaniard know he would not be heading to Arsenal, who instead brought William Saliba back into their first-team fold after a loan spell at Marseille.
Martinez overcame a difficult start at United and is now one of Ten Hag’s most trusted stars
He recently got his hands on the World Cup after helping Argentina prevail out in Qatar
The Gunners have enjoyed the stronger start to the season, taking 37 points from a possible 42 to lead Manchester City by five points at the top of the Premier League.
United, meanwhile, sit 11 points behind them in fifth after winning eight out of 14 this season.
Martinez started two games and came off the bench three times in Argentina’s successful run at the World Cup in Qatar.
Speaking ahead of United’s return to competitive action on Wednesday night with the visit of Burnley, Scott McTominay revealed his team-mate’s response to his text following their victory.
‘I messaged Lisandro the other day and said congratulations,’ said McTominay. ‘He said “we go for the next one”. He’s just won a World Cup, so that shows the mentality that is in the group.’
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