Manchester United know from first-hand experience just how uncompromising Lee Congerton can be in the midst of a summer transfer saga.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously quipped that dealing with Daniel Levy was more painful than his hip replacement, but no one at Old Trafford could claim that doing business with the former Leicester City was a comparatively pleasant experience.
During Congerton’s time at the King Power Stadium, he helped Leicester extract a staggering £80 million sum from Manchester United in negotiations over Harry Maguire. A fee which made the England international the most expensive defender in football history.
So when United found themselves across a table from Congerton again a couple of months ago – the Welshman now the head of recruitment at Serie A outfit Atalanta – the Premier League giants would likely have been under no illusions that a deal to bring Rasmus Hojlund to Old Trafford would be anything but straight-forward. Or cheap, for that matter.
Manchester United know all about Lee Congerton
“This new director, the man responsible for scouting, Lee Congerton spotted these players,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said in the winter, the 50-year-old also the brains behind the inspired additions of Hojlund and ex-Everton misfit Ademola Lookman.
“He was quick for Hojlund, the club made an important investment in this lad. The club bought these two players who have been helping me work well.”
After rejecting a couple of offers – all the while threatening to raise Hojlund’s price-tag beyond the £80 million Manchester United paid for Maguire four years previously (The Athletic) – a deal was finally struck to the tune of an initial £63 million. That meant Atalanta made a near-£50 million profit on a player they had signed just one year previously.
Congerton’s ability to strike low-cost signings as well as eye-watering sales are, therefore, two of the major reasons why he appears to have earned a place on United’s director of football shortlist, alongside Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman, Atletico Madrid’s Andrea Berta, Milan legend Paolo Maldini and (the current favourite) Paul Mitchell.
According to The Telegraph, Congerton is ‘under consideration’ by a United side expected to make big – and long overdue – changes to their sporting structure under Sir Jim Ratcliffe. Congerton, if appointed, would likely replace John Murtough, and bring with him a wealth of experience on the back of spells at West Brom, Celtic, Sunderland, Leicester and Atalanta.
Congerton was also once a youth coach at Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
A ‘very talented’ director
“His job is to find the players and, in his time here, he’s done that,” former Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers said during their time together north of the border in 2019, the Hoops snapping up the likes of Odsonne Edoaurd, Filip Benkovic and Timothy Weah (now of Juventus) during Congerton’s Parkhead tenure.
“He puts in a lot of miles, a lot of hours and of course the torch gets shone on him. Lee is very talented. He hasn’t worked in the game for this period of time without having that talent.
“Lee helped bring in the likes of Odsonne Edouard and Filip Benkovic. He does a great job with the resources he works with.”