Barcelona appear to have won the race with Manchester City and Manchester United to sign Alexis Sanchez. The Chile winger is expected to complete a £32m move to the European champions from Udinese this week.
Delegations from both Manchester clubs met Gino Pozzo, the transfer supremo at Udinese, last week to begin discussions over the 22-year-old as the Serie A side looked to establish which suitors were prepared to meet their asking price. Pozzo also held talks with two Italian clubs -- believed to be Juventus and Inter Milan -- as well as meeting Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Sources in Chile and Spain have suggested it is the Catalan side who were first to offer Udinese an acceptable proposal, agreeing to pay around £25m up front and a further £7m in performance-related clauses.
Sanchez has spent the past few days in Santiago training with his national side in preparation for next month's Copa America, but is reported to have been granted permission by Chile manager Claudio Borghi to travel to Barcelona to complete his move, if necessary.
Borghi, whose side faced Estonia in their final warm-up game last night, has made clear his preference for the player to move to the Spanish champions, while Sanchez is believed to have already been congratulated on joining Pep Guardiola's side by his Chilean team-mates.
Sanchez was thought to have agreed terms with Barca earlier this month only for the Spanish side's original bid, which included striker Bojan Krkic in part exchange, to fall through after Krkic made it clear he would not move to Italy.
Zubizarreta and Bartomeu, though, have maintained regular contact with Pozzo since, and sources close to the player have disclosed that, while Sanchez has long wished to play in England, he feels he would not be able to turn down the chance to play alongside Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi should Barcelona match Udinese's valuation.
The news will come as more of a blow to City than United. Roberto Mancini had identified Sanchez as his primary summer target and the club are believed to have prioritised signing the Chilean at the expense of movement elsewhere thus far this summer.
The move for Sanchez appears to have scuppered any prospect of Italy international Giuseppe Rossi moving to the Nou Camp. The Villarreal striker had been linked with a move to Barcelona after another impressive season in which he scored 32 goals, but his representative has poured cold water over any talk of the move. The news could alert Tottenham, among other clubs, after Harry Redknapp failed in his bid to bring the former United player to White Hart Lane in January.
"Rossi signing for Barca would be very difficult," the agent said. "If there is €45m to sign (new players) and Alexis goes to Barca for €30m then there is no money to pay for the transfer of Rossi. If the club wants Rossi, they must prove it. But if not, nothing happens."
Though United have tracked Sanchez for several years, manager Alex Ferguson is widely expected to add Aston Villa's Ashley Young to his squad when the England player returns from holiday, while he is also thought to be examining the possibility of signing Samir Nasri from Arsenal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)