Jose Mourinho says he would not be surprised if Manchester United eventually activate the buy-back clause that they inserted in the transfer of Dutch winger Memphis Depay to French club Lyon.
Depay has suffered an underwhelming 18 months in English football since former United manager Louis van Gaal paid PSV Eindhoven a reported £25 million ($30.7 million, 28.8 million euros) for him in June 2015.
But United insisted on the option of buying the 22-year-old back from Lyon at a prearranged price, should the French club decide to sell him.
United could eventually lose nearly £5 million on Friday’s sale but the fact they inserted a sell-on clause and, more surprisingly, that buy-back option indicates Mourinho’s belief that the winger could eventually fulfil his potential.
“Potentially he is a very good player,” said the United manager. “I think when Mr van Gaal decided to buy him he did well. He knew him very well from the national team and he was very young in the World Cup.
“He had flashes of top quality. He was playing well in Holland. We know the Dutch league is not the same but he was showing some very good things.
“He didn’t succeed in his 18 months but he is very young so I think it’s important for the club to keep control of his talent.
“We all wish he plays well at Olympique Lyon and then why not come back because everyone here liked him?”
Mourinho blamed too many wingers in the United squad for Depay’s lack of first team chances but claimed he was a model professional.
“It didn’t work for Memphis last season but from my perspective he was a fantastic professional,” said Mourinho.
“It is one thing for some picture that somebody takes with him in an amazing car or dressing in a very specific way but that image is totally wrong.
“He’s a kid who respects everyone, a kid who worked very hard to try to have more chances, a kid who was frustrated because he was not having that. I only have good things to say about him.”
– ‘Not easy market’ –
The United manager has also seen Morgan Scheiderlin leave the club in the current transfer window, with a permanent move to Everton.
Mourinho admits their departure leaves United short on numbers as they continue to battle on four fronts but the Red Devils boss says he is unlikely to bring in any new players this month.
“For some positions we are comfortable in numbers,” he said. “Probably for some positions we are going to have problems because we don’t have so many options.
“I always think the best time to buy is the summer market. I always consider the January market is an emergency one where you can try to resolve some problems, where you can try to give a little boost to the team for the rest of the season. But it is not an easy market.”
However, the United manager has stood by his insistence that any player unhappy at his lack of first team opportunities would be allowed to leave the club in the final two weeks of the window, as long as the offer matched his valuation.
Ashley Young, Bastian Schweinsteiger and, even, England full-back Luke Shaw have all been at the centre of rumours suggesting they may fall into that category.
“I was not even thinking about (selling) Morgan and Memphis but we allowed them to go when the right offer arrived,” said Mourinho.
“As we have said, if a player is not totally happy here because he does not have the minutes they deserve then I don’t think it’s human to stop them going – only a bad offer or no offer stops them going. But when the offer is correct, I don’t think it’s human to stop them going.”