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21st Sep 2017

Derby County manager explains why he rejected chance to sign Victor Lindelof

There wasn't a kind reaction to the Manchester United defender's performance against Burton Albion

Robert Redmond

“Then suddenly he’s been touted around at £20m or £30m. So, I think we made a mistake.”

Derby County manager Gary Rowett was a pundit for Sky Sports’ coverage of Manchester United’s comfortable Carabao Cup victory on Wednesday night, and spoke about how he had a chance to sign Victor Lindelof.

The Swedish defender started in United’s 4-1 over Burton Albion, but hasn’t been a regular in the team this season. He has been omitted from the club’s matchday squad for three of their four Premier League games, as Jose Mourinho gradually integrates him into the team.

Lindelof arrived from Benfica in the summer for £30.7m, and Mourinho has said he will give him time to settle into English football – similar to the way Henrikh Mkhitaryan needed time to get used to the Premier League last season.

The Swedish defender could have been acquainted with English football a lot sooner had Rowett opted to sign him back in 2014, when Lindelof was just 20. Rowett had just become Birmingham City manager and was offered the chance to sign Lindelof, who was part of Benfica’s B team at the time.

However, the current Derby manager rejected the offer because he felt Lindelof wasn’t “tough enough” – which is peak Proper Football Man logic.

Rowett said:


“About two or three years ago, when we first went into Birmingham, an agent called us and said, ‘we are trying to get some of our younger players out to expose them to different levels’. We had a look at him and put it to some of the staff, but it was ironic because they felt he wasn’t probably quite tough enough. Then suddenly he’s been touted around at £20m or £30m. So, I think we made a mistake. To be fair, he got straight back in the Benfica side very quickly and of course went from strength to strength.”

Lindelof’s transition from Portuguese football to the rough and tumble of the English game hasn’t been a smooth one. The 23-year-old has the backing of his manager. Mourinho said following United’s 4-0 win over West Ham on the opening weekend of the season that Lindelof is a “fantastic player” and compared his adjustment to English football with that of former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho.

“I brought in 2004 a phenomenal central defender to England in Carvalho, he was one of the best central defenders in the last decade of the Premier League, but he struggled. It was difficult for him to come and adapt to the beginning, and I think Victor needs a little bit of time and he’s going to have that time.”

However, quite a few of those who have watched Lindelof play seem unconvinced.