Real Madrid are ready to test Tottenham Hotspur's insistence that Gareth Bale is not for sale at any price this summer by making a £60m bid for the Wales international.
As part of his negotiations to succeed the Chelsea-bound Jose Mourinho as Real's coach, Carlo Ancelotti has been promised by club president Fiorentino Perez that a bid could be made for Bale. He is the Italian's No 1 target.
An offer would appear to renege on a letter Real are understood to have sent Spurs chairman Daniel Levy this year promising they would not try to sign Bale at present.
Even so, Spurs are determined not to sell and will resist any bid, even if Bale does not sign a new contract. Talks are ongoing over that proposed deal, which would lead to a significant rise in his wages.
Ancelotti reiterated his desire yesterday to leave Paris St-Germain, where he has one year remaining on his contract, to take over at Real. He has to try to negotiate his exit, which could include a guarantee not to poach any PSG players, but Real remain confident he will join them.
PSG are considering their options. Rafael Benitez, who is interesting Napoli, is waiting to see whether they turn to him, although there is the intriguing possibility that PSG will place sporting director Leonardo in charge for a season and hope to hire Arsene Wenger if he allows his contract at Arsenal to run out next summer.
Neither Bale nor his advisers are pushing for a move, and Levy has already made clear that he will not sell to another British club under any circumstances. He has also indicated that he will not sell Bale to any club this summer, no matter how high the offer is. Levy took a similar stance two years ago when Chelsea made a series of offers for Luka Modric. In the end, Spurs sold Modric last summer, to Real, for less than was offered by their London rivals because the Spurs chairman did not want to sell within the Premier League.
However, Real are the one club that Spurs fear could eventually unsettle Bale. Despite the letter, Real have already started a charm offensive.
Zinedine Zidane, who works with the youth teams at the Bernabeu, said Bale was "more than good enough" to join the club, while defender Sergio Ramos has labelled Bale a "Madrid-quality player".
Spurs' hand is strong, however, because Bale is not only settled where he is but also enjoys a very good relationship with manager Andre Villas-Boas, who is working hard to improve the squad this summer, having missed out on the Champions League by a single point.
Villas-Boas would like Spurs to recruit a director of football, with Roma's Franco Baldini – the former England general manager under Fabio Capello – the preferred choice.
The club are also in the running to sign Spain striker David Villa, who has been made available by Barcelona and has indicated he would like to move to the Premier League and play for Villas-Boas.