Fergie puts brakes on £35m move for Sneijder
Manchester United chief executive David Gill is attempting to thrash out a deal to take Wesley Sneijder to Old Trafford, with Alex Ferguson yet to sanction a £35m bid because of concerns over the total cost of signing the Inter Milan midfielder.
Gill has remained in Manchester in an effort to reach an agreement with Inter and Sneijder before joining the club on their pre-season tour of the United States later this week.
Although Ferguson is a long-term admirer of the Dutchman, further issues over the player's age -- Sneijder was 27 last month -- have left the United manager and Gill pursuing avenues to reduce the overall outlay involved in signing the former Ajax and Real Madrid star.
Discussions with parties close to Sneijder and Inter are understood to have progressed well, however, with the Italians open to selling Sneijder, who signed a £190,000-a-week five-year contract at the San Siro last October.
Ferguson's reluctance to launch an official move for the player is not simply related to his transfer fee and wages, which would take Sneijder beyond Wayne Rooney as Old Trafford's top earner. The United manager is also determined to ensure that any deal makes sense financially on a long-term basis.
The Scot has overseen a strict transfer policy, which pre-dates the 2005 takeover by United owners the Glazer family, that has meant he has signed just one player aged 27 or over for more than £3m since the summer of 1997.
Ferguson's philosophy is based on his belief that younger players with their best days ahead of them offer greater value on the pitch, and more scope for development, than players in their late 20s, who also offer little or no resale value.
And aside from Henning Berg and Teddy Sheringham, 27 and 31 respectively when signed prior to the 1997-98 season, Ferguson has only broken his self-imposed policy once since 1997 by spending £30.75m to sign the 27-year-old Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham in 2008.
As a result, Ferguson had made Arsenal's Samir Nasri his priority target in the attacking midfield area this summer, but having made a £20m bid for the Frenchman last month, Ferguson has now admitted that he expects the 24-year-old to remain at Arsenal.
With Paul Scholes retiring at the end of last season, Ferguson has conceded that replacing the 36-year-old would be "impossible", but he said: "If we can get another player on the same lines (as Scholes) in terms of his passing and vision, then we would have to do something."
Despite comments by Sneijder this week suggesting that he and his wife Yolanthe are keen to remain in Milan, it is understood that the player is interested in a move to United. Having handed Rooney a five-year contract worth a basic £160,000 a week last October, however, securing Sneijder would involve a major rise in United's wage bill.
With Inter interested in signing United's Portuguese winger Nani, the economics of a transfer could become more appealing if the 24-year-old was involved as part of a deal.
Nani's future at the club has become a subject for speculation because of the £15m arrival of Ashley Young from Aston Villa and his fall from grace in the final months of last season following Antonio Valencia's return from a six-month ankle injury.
Inter managing director Marco Branca insisted yesterday the club does not want to sell Sneijder. He said: "We have received offers and we are not going to take any. Sneijder is untouchable." Whether Inter carry out their pledge not to sell, or whether they are simply trying to force the price up, remains to be seen.
United play their first game of pre-season tonight, when they face Major League Soccer outfit New England Revolution in Boston. (© Daily Telegraph, London)