United linked with move for £25m Nesta

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The Independent Football

Manchester United are stepping up their approach for the Lazio defender, Alessandro Nesta, but they will have to pay £25m and compete with Juventus and Real Madrid to get him.

Sir Alex Ferguson is sending his brother Martin to the Rome derby tomorrow to check on the unsettled 25-year-old Italian, who will be one of the transfer catches of the summer. Nesta will leave Lazio at the end of the season if they fail to qualify for the Champions' League, and the club's officials admit they will find it hard to resist offers.

Ferguson wants a leading young centre-back for next season, and Nesta is thought to be top of his list. Discreet feelers have already been put out and investigations made about price and availability. Lazio are looking for around £25m, but may reconsider if that price fails to attract attention. Juventus and the Spanish champions, Real Madrid, have expressed an interest in the player.

Lazio owe United money from the signing of Jaap Stam last year, a valuable bargaining wedge for United in any negotiations. The final word will be down to the player and Nesta might prefer to stay in Italy. Few of the best Italians come to England at their peak, normally preferring to move in the twilight of their careers for a final lucrative contract.

Nicolas Anelka is ready to agree a deal with Liverpool which would make the Frenchman's loan move to Anfield permanent. The Paris St-Germain striker has been a key factor in Liverpool's sustained title challenge since he joined the club in December, scoring three goals in 14 games, and the 22-year-old said: "Phil Thompson will soon sign me to the club. It's been a long time since I enjoyed myself on the pitch. Liverpool is a fantastic club. You can go out in the street and not be disturbed by people."