Paul Merson has revealed he called Harry Maguire to apologize after branding Manchester United’s decision to pay £80m for him in 2019 as “ridiculous”.
Maguire played for England in the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and United opted to pay a world-record fee for a defender to Leicester, only to bring him to Old Trafford the following year.
When asked his opinion on the transfer, Merson told Sky Sports: “Harry Maguire, £80m is ridiculous. Ridiculous at the highest level.
“He tore it up with England, he played in a three. When you play three back, you only play three for one reason: the defenders aren’t good enough, you don’t trust them.’
Maguire was named captain in his first season at United but endured a difficult season last season, being dropped in recent weeks by Erik ten Hag, who has favored a defensive pairing of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.
Despite his lack of playing time at club level, Gareth Southgate has backed Maguire and chosen him for his latest England squad. The 29-year-old is expected to play a key role for his country at the World Cup later this year and Merson has claimed he only wants what is best for Maguire, leading to him calling back the center to clear the air afterwards his previous statements about him.
“I don’t want to be right about that [his past criticism of Maguire] “I’d rather be wrong,” Merson said The Telegraph.
“I want England to win the World Cup and Harry Maguire to score the winning goal. It was just my opinion. I called Brendan Rodgers and said, “Can you give me Harry Maguire’s number?” I wasn’t comfortable with myself.
“I had to call him and say, ‘I don’t agree with the £80m, but I shouldn’t have said that and I’m sorry.’ I went a little too far.
“He could not believe it. Probably thought it was a joke. I don’t think he had a fair crack. He fights and plays on the left when he’s right footed.
Merson has admitted he overshot the mark with Maguire and it’s not the only time his analysis has come back to haunt him.
The former Arsenal midfielder called Manchester City’s decision to pay £55million for Kevin De Bruyne in 2015 “a joke” and was unimpressed when Liverpool signed Mohamed Salah two years later after both struggled to keep the grade to reach Chelsea.
The duo have developed into two of the best players in the Premier League in recent years and Merson has held hands as an expert to make mistakes, but he still feels like he’s in the studio most of the time can claim .
“People still come up to me even though I’ve said 50 times how amazing Kevin De Bruyne is,” he continued.
“I was just saying what I saw. I’m a Chelsea fan. I also saw Mo Salah at Chelsea. You didn’t cut it. They’re coming back and they’re two of the best players in the world. It’s the right place at the right time.
“I don’t like it when people go on and say, ‘He’s clueless, kick him out, he has no brains.’
“I have a good knowledge of football, even if I sometimes get it wrong. Talk to me about politics, I have no idea. Soccer, I’ve played my whole life. Among the top managers. I know my football.
“I sit down with everyone and talk about football. I was confident on Sky the other day with Gary Neville, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Roy Keane.
“The hardest thing is when you have to criticize one of the best players who have ever played football. Ronaldo was a 100 times better player than me and I have to say Man United won’t win anything with him in their team.