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Page last updated at 22:46 GMT, Saturday, 1 August 2009 23:46 UK

Man Utd deny 'stealing' youngster

By Peter Scrivener and John Sinnott

Paul Pogba
Pogba (right, in blue) has captained France's Under-16 team

Manchester United have dismissed claims they have 'stolen' teenage midfielder Paul Pogba from French club Le Havre.

United have been accused of offering 'very large' sums to the 16-year-old's parents to induce him to end a contract he has until the end of this season.

An angry Le Havre statement said: "This act is even more unacceptable as it comes from a club with such stature."

But a United spokesman told BBC Sport: "It is complete nonsense. Everything has been done within Uefa guidelines."

Europe's governing body is keen to introduce a rule preventing the international transfer of players under the age of 18 after member associations, clubs, leagues and players agreed to the principle at a March meeting.

After that meeting Uefa president Michel Platini said: "The question of minors is above all a moral and ethical issue. We have a duty to take concrete steps to protect young players and training clubs.


"I am delighted that the key stakeholders of the European football family have a common view on this subject and I welcome the signature of this important resolution."

Players from European Union countries are able to move to Britain on academy or scholarship contracts at 16, and to sign full professional contracts at 17.

By signing a player under the age of 18, the buying club minimises the level of compensation the selling club will get.

Le Havre, who were relegated to the French second division last season, claim an agreement between the club, Pogba and his parents was in place for the player to stay until the end of the 2009/2010 season.

A statement - under the heading 'Manchester United steal Paul Pogba from HAC (Le Havre)' - on the club's website said: "Le Havre wishes to express its indignation regarding the dealings of Manchester United's directors in relation to the young Paul Pogba.

"The player and his parents refused to keep the arrangement because Manchester United offered very high sums of money to the parents of the (player) with the aim of obtaining the transfer of their son.

"At a time when numerous parties - including at European Union level, governmental (level), or within Fifa or Uefa - are speaking out against the 'trading of minors,' Manchester United does not hesitate to uproot a 16-year-old kid."

One of the most highly-rated teenagers in France, Pogba has captained the national team at Under-16 level.

Le Havre have an outstanding reputation in developing young players, nurturing players like Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra and Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia as well as Atletico Madrid's Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who moved from the French club to Liverpool, before going to Spain.

It is not the first time United have been criticised in their pursuit of Europe's promising youngsters.

Italian club Lazio were unhappy over United's pursuit and signing of Federico Macheda, who was 16 when he moved to Old Trafford in 2007.

"They get the parents on board, giving them handsome compensation, offering them important jobs, which shouldn't happen," Lazio president Claudio Lotito was quoted as telling the Times last season.

"Because with a 15-year-old it's unthinkable that a club should give millions of euros to his parents, practically buying the parents, and this is a real problem: the parents sign on behalf of the players.

"We did everything we could to try to keep him. Unfortunately the rules don't allow us - and this is a shameful situation - to put players under 16 under contract.

"Therefore these players are regularly stolen from our club, outside of any respect for any ethical code."

Macheda played a key role in United's successful defence of their Premier League title last season, coming off the bench to score the winner in the crucial 3-2 win over Aston Villa in April.

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see also
Ferguson to alter Man Utd tactics
31 Jul 09 |  Man Utd
Ferguson rules out more signings
13 Jul 09 |  Man Utd
Macheda hails dream Man Utd debut
06 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Who is Federico Macheda?
06 Apr 09 |  Man Utd

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