Manchester United’s pursuit of Sergio Ramos is not only genuine but is designed to ramp up the price the club wants to exact from Real Madrid for David De Gea.
It is also a clear sign of United playing hard-ball in the transfer market with the club unconcerned as to whether Ramos is attempting to use them to secure an improved new contract at Real.
That happened two years ago when United got their fingers burnt when they believed the assurances given to them that Cristiano Ronaldo was ready to return to Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson’s parting gift to the new manager David Moyes.
Instead Ronaldo used United’s interest to earn an improved new five-year deal in Spain. If the Portuguese again decides he wants to go back to United then he will now have to make the running.
Those close to Ramos insist his intentions are different, even if the failure to reward him with a better deal – the defender has two years left on his contract and he feels Real have reneged on promises – is a significant factor in his desire to leave.
But if Real refuse to sell Ramos then it is quite possible that United could respond by refusing to sell De Gea.
During conversations Ramos has had with the Real hierarchy last week – firstly in a meeting at the training ground with chief executive Jose Angel Sanchez and then over the telephone with president Florentino Perez – he laid out his unhappiness and also his request that the club listen to offers, especially from United.
Ramos is now on holiday in the United States, with United applying further pressure: there are reports that they have made a second bid in excess of £35million, after an initial £32million offer was rejected, while they have also suggested that the player himself makes public his private demands to leave. That would help.
Asked whether United fear they are being used by Ramos, senior sources at the club explained that even if this were the case – which they doubt – then it remains a no-lose situation for them because the worst-case scenario is he stays at Madrid and they move on to other targets.
United also made it clear to Real when the first indications emerged that Ramos might want to go that they would accept a straight swap with De Gea.
De Gea has one more year left on his contract at Old Trafford and is genuinely torn, even if ultimately he wants to join Real.
United have dealt sympathetically with the goalkeeper because they accept he is from Madrid, his family remain there and his girlfriend wants him to return. A highly-lucrative long-term contract has been offered to De Gea to extend his stay at United but the club accept it is not about the money for him.
But it is about the money for Real. No bid has yet been made for De Gea with Real hoping, evidently, to exploit not only the fact he has only 12 months left of his contract but that he wants to join them, to eventually get the player on the cheap – for less than £15million.
United will not accept such a low offer and would even prefer to keep De Gea for one more year and allow him to go once his contract has expired next summer. However the interest in Ramos does help United’s negotiating stance because, having stated they want to do a straight-swap deal, they can try and now exact more money out of Real for De Gea.
As for Ramos, he certainly fits the bill of the kind of experienced, big personality, ball-playing – and right-footed – defender that is one of the key signings that manager Louis Van Gaal wants to make this summer as he overhauls his squad.
The aggression shown towards Ramos by some sections of the pro-Real Madrid media has also played into United’s hands. The key quote from last week came from Pedro Riesco, a former player who is now an agent working closely with Ramos’ brother Rene, who represents the Real vice-captain.
“At the moment, with everything that is happening, it is hard to see Sergio Ramos staying at Madrid. Sergio is a symbol of the club and has nothing to prove to anyone, but so much that is being said is manipulation, an attempt to discredit him by the de facto spokesmen who act like puppets saying Sergio does not respect the badge, that he is a money-grabber.”
It is a quote that sets out perfectly Ramos’s own feelings and also gives a sense of how high emotions are running at present. It is a situation that United hope to exploit not just in terms of signing Ramos but also in sorting out De Gea’s future to their own benefit.
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
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Manchester United have been encouraged by Sergio Ramos agreeing to their request to make his desire to leave Real Madrid public, despite an opening £32m bid for the defender being rejected out of hand.