With just 10 days left to persuade Bayern Munich to negotiate a fee with Manchester United, Owen Hargreaves' hope of a move to the Premiership received another setback yesterday when the club's general manager, Uli Hoeness, told the midfielder that he would "not be released under any circumstances".
Bayern's resilience in the face of United's £17m offer is also giving great cause for concern at Old Trafford, where Hoeness' intransigence is threatening to scupper the hope of a second high-profile summer signing. While the Bayern general manager's refusal to negotiate may first have been regarded as a bargaining tactic, United face another rethink of their transfer strategy as the 31 August deadline approaches.
Hargreaves appears to have played all his trump cards now following a interview in Germany's Sport-Bild magazine last week in which he outlined his desire to leave Bayern and three meetings with the club's hierarchy. Hoeness' comments in the German media this week called on Hargreaves to "accept the decisions of those above him".
In a blunt dismissal of the England international's attempts to engineer a move, Hoeness said that he "advised" Hargreaves to keep quiet - "otherwise I will be very angry and that won't be good for him". He added: "I can't understand that after two meetings between the two of us he is still forcing the issue."
That United also continue to force the issue is not helping relations between the two clubs. While Bayern would stop short of accusing United of "tapping-up" Hargreaves - they are on shaky ground there in their dealings with Ruud van Nistelrooy - they are unwilling to be stigmatised as a selling club.
"He [Hargreaves] won't be released under any circumstances," Hoeness said.
Hargreaves did not travel to Barcelona with the Bayern squad yesterday citing flu and he also missed Sunday's Bundesliga match against Bochum. If United are serious about signing him then they will need to get negotiations moving in time for next Thursday's transfer deadline.
Central to Bayern's determination to keep Hargreaves is that he is contracted to the club until 2010, a deal he signed less than one year ago in October 2005 in the last year of his previous contract. United could certainly have signed him for significantly less than £17m last summer when he was much less of a key figure in Bayern's plans and had only one year on his contract.
Had United used a little cunning, they might even have persuaded Hargreaves to hold off and open talks in January for a Bosman free transfer this summer.
However, it would appear that United learned of Hargreaves real worth only during the World Cup finals and are now paying the price.
* Villarreal's Robert Pires will miss most of his first season at the club after tearing the cruciate ligament in his left knee against Cadiz in the pre-season Ramon de Carranza trophy on Friday.Reuse content