LONDON (AFP) – Blackburn Rovers said it was the lure of the Champions League that sealed the transfer of teenage defender Phil Jones to Premier League champions Manchester United.
United announced on Monday that they had agreed terms with Rovers for Jones, with the 19-year-old due to sign a five-year contract upon his return from the ongoing European Under-21 Championship in Denmark.
United thought Jones was heading to Old Trafford last week, only for old foes Liverpool to intervene with a reported £20 million ($33 million) offer.
However, Jones is understood to have told Rovers he only wanted to move to United and that has left Blackburn having to accept an offer believed to be in the region of Â£16.5 million ($27 million).
"Much as we would love him to stay on with us -- and we made all efforts to convince him to stay -- Phil has to finally follow his heart," said a statement on behalf of Venky's, the Indian-based poultry firm that owns Rovers.
Blackburn manager Steve Kean said Rovers were prepared to make Jones the highest-paid player in the club's history but the prospect of playing in the Champions League meant that there was little they could do to prevent the defender making the short journey across Lancashire to Old Trafford.
"The offer we made him was staggering for a 19-year-old, but it wasn't the money," Kean told Sky Sports News. "Phil wants to play Champions League football now and we're not at that level.
"I'm sure we will be in the coming years, and we gave it a real good try and made him a fantastic offer, but I understand why he wants to go now.
"He goes with our blessing and it's an opportunity for us to invest in other young players across other areas of the pitch.
"We were hoping he was going to be captain of our club and captain of England, he's a fantastic prospect and I'm sure he'll be an England regular very soon," Kean added.
A United statement issued earlier on Monday said: "Manchester United is delighted to announce it has signed an agreement with Blackburn Rovers for the transfer of Phil Jones.
"The player passed a medical in Manchester last week and has agreed a five-year contract.
"The deal will be completed once the player returns from international duty."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is looking to rebuild the team following their defeat by Barcelona in this season's Champions League final and the retirement of such stalwarts as ex-England duo Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.