Real madrid's Sergio Ramos has been hit by an angry backlash following the state of open warfare the defender has provoked with his club, which could enhance Manchester United's attempts to sign him.
A source close to the top of the Spanish club yesterday indicated that the defender's professed willingness to move to United seemed like a bluff designed to secure the player the £140,000-a-week contract he wants at the Bernabeu.
United are certainly extremely wary of not being played by the 29-year-old, who they want as part of an exchange deal for goalkeeper David de Gea.
But Ramos risks pushing himself to a point of no return with Real, in the latest of a series of rows with the club in recent years. Newspaper La Racon, which is close to Real president Florentino Perez, published a front-page image of Ramos on its sports pull-out yesterday with the words "Respetar la Insignia" ("Respect the badge"), and a strongly worded editorial declaring that he is failing to do so. The front page of AS declared "Ramos wants to leave now".
There is always a prospect that stand-offs such as this will end up with a new improved deal being offered - as was the case with Barcelona's Dani Alves recently.
But there is little suggestion from Real that they want to keep Ramos. From Perez's perspective, Atletico Madrid's Nicolas Otamendi could be a good replacement at half the price. Ramos finds himself in a state of open dispute with the club from which there may be no going back.
Possible evidence that Real may be willing to sell came last Friday, when one of Barcelona's presidential candidates, Jordi Majo, said that he had been offered the chance to sign Ramos.
Most Madrid supporters assumed that Ramos' brother and agent Rene had made the approach and there was some criticism in the Spanish media at Ramos trying to drum up interest in such a way.
But Majo's subsequent indication that he had not spoken to the agent but to another intermediary suggests Real were more likely to have been doing the offering.
As of yesterday, United had received no formal bid for De Gea, though there has been contact from Real, during which a low offer in the region of £12m is thought to have been mentioned.
Ramos has a €200m (£143m) buyout clause, though that is immaterial to Real’s actual valuation of him, which is thought to be around €65m (£46.5m).
As United continue to push for Ramos, striker Robin van Persie is understood to believe that his career and settled family life in England are worth fighting for at the club.
Manager Louis van Gaal has indicated to him that he has to be able to demonstrate greater intensity in training to make the starting XI on a regular basis
Van Gaal has the same concerns about Van Persie that he did with an ageing Mark van Bommel at Bayern Munich. He always sets huge store by players being able to deliver maximum effort in his intensive training sessions.
Van Gaal told Van Bommel that he should move to Italy, where he could chose his moments of impact because the pace of the game was slower.
But with few clubs likely to be able to match Van Persie’s wages in any case, the forward seems to want to stay and fight. (© Independent News Service)