United hoping to lure £39m midfielder Gaitan away from Benfica
Manchester United will have to pay Benfica at least £35m if they are to make good on their interest in midfielder Nicolas Gaitan, who excelled against them in the Champions League.
A new contract Gaitan signed with his club earlier this week keeps his release clause at £39m and it is considered unlikely that the Lisbon side, who have seen many of their star players leave over the past two years, would be willing to negotiate down much further.
Alex Ferguson, whose tendency to sign players who have performed well against United has seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Phil Jones arrive at Old Trafford among others, is interested in the midfielder considered by some Portuguese observers to be an even better talent than his compatriot Angel di Maria, who left for Real Madrid in the summer of last year.
The agent Jorge Mendes' links with United contribute to the sense that the Argentinian playmaker will be a target next summer. Mendes, who brought David de Gea to Old Trafford, concluded the deal with Benfica which delivered the 23-year-old to Lisbon.
The way Gaitan destroyed United's Fabio da Silva on Benfica's left in the first half-hour of the clubs' 1-1 draw last month hugely impressed Ferguson -- and his superb ball for Oscar Cardozo set up the Portuguese side's goal, later equalised by Ryan Giggs.
Ferguson's brother, Martin, who scouts for him, has watched Gaitan, though Cardozo is another who has impressed him.
A one-year contract extension has seen Gaitan committed to Benfica until 2016, though it is a typical Portuguese device to bring his wages in line with his performances, rather an expression of his devotion to Jorge Jesus' side, whom United meet at Old Trafford on November 22.
Gaitan was previously earning less than €1m a year and now commands a salary of €2m. Though United look in need of a playmaker -- the role Gaitan held at Boca Juniors before his €8.4m move in the close season -- Jesus has deployed him in a left-sided berth in which he is less comfortable. The view from Portugal is that Benfica may try to keep him at the club for another season if they win their league.
Less dangerous in one-on-one situations than Di Maria but a more intelligent footballer, he is Benfica's most influential player.
Any United move for him looks unlikely before the summer, but with the prospect of Dimitar Berbatov remaining beyond then looking slim, a reinforcement is likely. (© Independent News Service)