The add-ons Anthony Martial failed to trigger in £58m Man Utd transfer

  • Man Utd agreed a £58m deal to sign Martial from Monaco in 2015
  • The fee was split between £36m guaranteed and various add-ons
  • By the time the extra clauses expired in 2019, two of the three agreed were not triggered
Anthony Martial burst onto the scene with bang in 2015
Anthony Martial burst onto the scene with bang in 2015 / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Anthony Martial's transfer to Manchester United created shockwaves in 2015, not least because nobody saw it coming and the deal itself made him the most expensive teenager in the world.

11 days later, the Frenchman – wearing the number nine shirt – made his United debut as a substitute against Liverpool and within minutes had scored a superb solo goal in a 3-1 win.

Later that season, Martial would also score the stoppage time winner that sent United to the 2016 FA Cup final and on course for a first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. As a 20-year-old seemingly with the world at his feet, he finished the season with 17 goals in all competitions.

United fans have long revelled in the early doubts from outsiders cast over the Martial and the criticism aimed at the transfer fee that brought him to the club from Monaco.

"Tony Martial, he came from France,
English press said he had no chance,
50 million down the drain,
Tony Martial scores again..."

United supporters chant for Martial

The £50m that supporters chant about - much less frequently these days - is a rounded figure, but refers to the enormous overall value of the transfer. The total fee was a touch under £58m, a number substantially inflated by various add-ons after the clubs agreed an initial £36m.

In reality, Monaco never actually saw as much cash as that, with the deadlines for two of the milestones that were included in the deal coming and going without being met.

Over the course of Martial's initial four-year contract, United agreed to pay an additional £7.2m for each of three performance-related achievements. One was a nod to goalscoring, another was to do with international appearances, and the third hoped he would become the best player in the world.

To trigger the goalscoring clause, Martial needed to reach 25 Premier League goals. He started well enough, getting 11 as a youngster in his first season with a new club in a new country. But a combination of the arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in consecutive summers, losing his shirt number that seemed to upset him, and a downturn in form, ensured it took a while.

Martial scored 24 Premier League goals in his first three seasons, netting the key 25th in a famous comeback win against Newcastle - reports at the time suggested Jose Mourinho was on the brink of losing his job ahead of that game - in October 2018.

That took United's investment in Martial in terms of the transfer fee to £43.2m. But that is where it has stayed. The Red Devils may have shaved £14.4m off the overall price tag but would undoubtedly have been happy to pay the rest if it meant a player performing to his full potential.

Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial will leave Man Utd in 2024 without fulfilling his potential / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

The £7.2m clause for Martial hitting 25 senior appearances for France by the summer of 2019 was missed. He has 30 caps to his name now, but by the deadline it was only 18. Martial didn't represent his country at all in 2019 and hasn't been called up since the autumn of 2021.

The final clause would have been triggered had Martial won the Ballon d'Or in 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were still dominating at that time, although Luka Modric became the first player other than those two to win it since Kaka in 2007 in the latter year.

United did hand Martial a new contract when his original deal was expiring, tying the Frenchman to a new terms for the next five and a half years in January 2019. Given that the 2019/20 season a few months later appeared to be a watershed moment for Martial, by then aged 23 going on 24, it seemed a stroke of genius and a reward for patience as he plundered 23 goals in all competitions.

But Martial didn't kick on from there and that excellent season proved to be a flash in the pan rather than the new normal, with injuries then limiting him to just 22 Premier League games in 2020/21. Fitness troubles continued to be costly and the struggling forward even joined Sevilla on loan in January 2022 in a bid to kickstart his career in a new environment, but to no avail.

Six goals in 21 Premier League games last season represented a better return, but Martial is now sadly too far removed from the unburdened talent that once promised to take the game by storm. His current contract is getting close to the end and, as 90min has reported, United don't intend to use the option that could extend it by an extra year to 2025. Martial himself also accepts it is time to go.