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15th Feb 2023

Jordi Cruyff urged Alex Ferguson to sign two Real Madrid legends for Man United

Robert Redmond

“He didn’t take anybody. At least I came up with a good list!”

Jordi Cruyff has said that he recommended that Alex Ferguson sign two future Real Madrid legends for Manchester United back in 1999. Cruyff urged Ferguson to sign Michel Salgado and Claude Makélélé.

The former Red Devils manager sought scouting recommendations from the Dutchman after a loan spell in Spain. Cruyff suggested that Ferguson sign two of the midfielder’s Celta Vigo teammates.

Ferguson, however, didn’t follow through on the tips and Man United’s loss became Real Madrid’s gain as the pair became cornerstones of the famous Galacticos project.

The pair ended up making almost 500 appearances for Los Blancos.

Cruyff joined Man United from Barcelona in 1996, but his first-team appearances were limited.

In four years at Old Trafford, the midfielder played 58 games and scored eight goals. In January 1999, Cruyff was frustrated with his bit-part role at Old Trafford, so Ferguson granted him a loan move to Celta Vigo.

The Dutchman missed out on Man United winning the Treble but got to play regular first-team football again and line out alongside some top-class players.

Jordi Cruyff and his famous father Johan Cruyff.

“I was at Celta Vigo for four months,” Cruyff, who is now FC Barcelona’s sporting director, said in an interview with The Times.

“They had [Aleksandr] Mostovoi, [Valery] Karpin, Michel Salgado, [Claude] Makélélé, Mazinho, the Brazilian World Cup winner and captain and the father of Thiago [Alcântara]. When you look at those names you think, ‘Wow, what an amazing team that was!’

“I just needed to feel I was a football player again.”

When Cruyff returned to Old Trafford, Ferguson debriefed him about his time in Spain and wanted some recommendations for players to sign. He suggested Man United go for right-back Salgado and central midfielder Makélélé, who became elite-level players.

“Then I came back to Manchester and the first thing that Ferguson asked was, ‘If there were two players you could recommend, who?’

“I told him: ‘Michel Salgado is going to be a good right back’ — he had 10 years at Real Madrid — ‘and Makélélé. This guy, what a midfielder.’ He eventually went to Chelsea. He was the motor in the midfield.

“So I advised him these two and he didn’t take anybody. At least I came up with a good list!”

The Red Devils, however, missed out on both players to Real Madrid. Salgado joined Los Blancos that summer and became a stalwart for the club. The right-back ended up making almost 350 appearances for the club and helped them win the Champions League twice and La Liga.

The following year, Real Madrid signed Makélélé from Celta Vigo and became a pivotal player at the heart of the team’s midfield. Los Blancos entered a period of decline after the French midfielder left for Chelsea in 2004, where he helped the Blues win their first league title in over 50 years.

Man United would have been a better side for the presence of both in their team, particularly Makélélé who would have formed a formidable midfield alongside Roy Keane. Ferguson may have even won a second Champions League with the Treble team if Makélélé was anchoring the midfield with Keane.

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