By Bob Cass
Manchester United have been told they will have to pay £72million to land top targets Luka Modric, Leighton Baines and Cheick Tiote this summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson wants to strengthen and rejuvenate his midfield and, intriguingly, is after an alternative to Patrice Evra at left-back.
But the United boss is refusing to meet Tottenham’s £32m valuation of Modric or pay the £20m price quoted for Everton’s Baines and Newcastle’s Tiote as he seeks to keep costs at Old Trafford manageable.
‘We have made inquiries for all three players,’ admitted an Old Trafford source. ‘But Sir Alex will not be paying these ridiculous fees.’
Ferguson has left for his annual break in the south of France and will wait while considering other options for rebuilding the squad that was second best to Manchester City in the title race.
However, his stance leaves the way clear for other clubs and Chelsea are poised to step in for Tiote. Roman Abramovich, encouraged by his club’s Champions League victory, is willing to pay £20m for the combative Ivorian as he looks to build on their Munich success. Newcastle would make a profit of £16.5m on midfielder Tiote if the deal went through.
In midfield, Ferguson is still relying on Paul Scholes, 37, who he has convinced to stay for another year, and Ryan Giggs, 38. Both will soon have to be replaced and Modric and Tiote would bring resilience and guile.
But Evra, who stood in as captain for the injured Nemanja Vidic last season, has only just celebrated his 31st birthday. The defender is also likely to be a prominent figure for France at Euro 2012, where his country are in Group D with England.
His form has dipped recently but his place in the team was not expected to come under serious threat next season. Everton’s Baines is only four years Evra’s junior but Ferguson is determined to bring through the next wave of United stars after taking Ashley Young and Phil Jones to Old Trafford and promoting Danny Welbeck.
United will press ahead with the purchase of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund for £14m.
Ferguson has found common ground with ‘noisy neighbours’ City this summer over Eden Hazard, Lille’s £32m Belgium midfielder who is on his way to Chelsea.
It would have taken a financial commitment of nearly £50m in transfer and agent’s fees and one year’s wages to secure Hazard and Manchester’s giants refused to pay up.
A United source said: ‘The clubs may have acted independently but, for once, there was total agreement between United and City that, while Hazard is an exceptional talent, the figures were way over the top.’