Real Madrid are preparing to formalise attempts to sign David de Gea next week with club president Florentino Pérez ready to move for the Manchester United goalkeeper following his international commitments with Spain.
With long-serving Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas considering a lucrative offer to leave the Bernabéu and play for Turkish club Fenerbahce, Madrid are confident that a deal can be struck with United for De Gea.
Karim Benzema, the France forward, a player who United are interested in signing and the 27-year-old could be used as leverage to unlock any deal for De Gea.
Despite repeatedly resisting United’s attempts to secure him to a new £200,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford in recent months, De Gea has still to give the club a clear indication as to his intentions this summer.
But United are bracing themselves for Madrid to intensify efforts to sign the 24-year-old once he returns from international duty following Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus in Borisov on Sunday.
Although De Gea, an £18.3 million signing from Atlético Madrid in 2011, is keen to return to his home city, Real have been made aware that the goalkeeper will not agitate for a transfer and that any move must be driven by the Spanish club.
With a year still to run on his United contract, De Gea is prepared to wait until next summer to move to Real, but such a prospect is regarded as unrealistic by both clubs, with United unwilling to lose De Gea for nothing and Real determined to secure Casillas’s long-term successor before the start of next season.
Louis van Gaal, the United manager, admitted last month that a short-list has already been drawn up of potential replacements for De Gea, with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Chelsea’s Petr Cech the leading candidates.
But while De Gea and his advisors remain reluctant to inform United of his desire to move to Real, staff at Old Trafford are resigned to the player returning to Madrid due to the lure of Real and De Gea’s popstar girlfriend, Edurne García Almagro, who continues to live in the Spanish capital.
United’s interest in Real winger Gareth Bale is regarded as a separate issue by senior figures at Old Trafford, who do not believe that their hopes of signing the Welshman rest on De Gea’s future.
But any opportunity to secure Benzema as part of negotiations over De Gea will be pursued by United, with Van Gaal identifying a proven goalscorer as a key area of the club’s summer recruitment plans.
Former United manager Alex Ferguson failed in an attempt to sign Benzema from Lyon in 2009, following the £80m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real, due to the forward’s preference for a move to Madrid over Manchester.
Benzema’s agent, Karim Djaziri, claimed earlier this week that a move to Manchester held little appeal for the player and United would face a further obstacle in the form of Real president Pérez, who regards the striker as one of the club’s prized assets.
Meanwhile, United have confirmed the release of five players in the club’s retained list, including goalkeeper Ben Amos and Under-21 captain Tom Thorpe.
Tom Cleverley, who has agreed a free transfer move to Everton, is also named as one of those released by United.
Liverpool will consider Rene Meulensteen and Pako Ayestaran as potential assistants to Brendan Rodgers with the club ready to focus on rebuilding the Anfield coaching staff following the capture of Burnley forward Danny Ings.
Manchester United’s world-record £750m kit deal with Adidas could make an inauspicious start in a reserve-team fixture in August following Louis van Gaal’s decision to rule out a pre-season friendly at Old Trafford ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.