Barcelona's apparent plan to sign David Beckham suffered a setback yesterday as the man behind the deal lost ground in his effort to become president of the Spanish club.
Joan Laporta is running second in the Barça elections behind his main rival, Lluis Bassat. Laporta claims to have a pre-agreement with Manchester United about a deal for Beckham, but despite that he is still trailing as the 15 June close of ballots approaches.
Laporta has 5,145 votes compared to Bassat's 8,590, suggesting his best hope is to form an alliance with one of the other four candidates. However, the chances of him winning and then finding the £30m needed for Beckham seems increasingly unlikely. United have set up a move for Paris St-Germain's Brazil international Ronaldinho but have yet to agree terms with the French club - and a deal is more likely if Beckham leaves.
Laporta insisted: "We have presented a proposal to Manchester to sign David Beckham. At the moment I cannot say anything more but I trust that we can sign him."
Sources close to Beckham claim he is in no rush to leave and is not keen on Barça being out of Europe next season. The Catalan club would also face problems matching his wages and image rights.
Bassat's manifesto includes bringing back the fans' favourite Pep Guardiola as a Director of Football, signing Roma's Argentinian centre-half Walter Samuel and keeping Raddy Antic as coach.
Even if a deal were to be agreed for Ronaldinho, with both United's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, and the club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, on holiday next week, it appears almost certain the official signing would not be completed until the end of the month.
The player's agent, his brother Roberto Assis, admitted yesterday that PSG are still trying to keep hold of him, while the club's new coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, is adamant that the Brazilian midfielder will see out the remainder of his contract, which runs until 2006.
Beckham's father, Ted, also stated yesterday that he believes his son wants to stay at Old Trafford. "He is Manchester United through and through," he claimed. "They're the only club he's ever wanted to play for. At the end of the day he is a Manchester United player, he always has been and he always will be."
The Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, has dismissed speculation linking Gareth Southgate with a move away from the club after the England defender was reported as saying he that he wants to play in the Champions' League.
"It doesn't concern me at all," Gibson said. "I haven't spoken to Gareth - he is away on England duty and I haven't felt the need to speak to him. It would be good to see Gareth playing in the Champions' League because if he does it will be with us."
The Everton manager, David Moyes, has made an ambitious move to buy the promising Fulham midfielder Sean Davis. The London club would want around £6m for the 23-year-old.
Fulham are also trying to send their disappointing record buy, Steve Marlet, back to Lyon to end the transfer wrangle between the clubs. Marlet was signed for £11.5m in 2001 but a dispute over an unpaid installment of the fee saw the game's world governing body Fifa step into the row. Now the London club hope that the French champions will take the striker back and waive the remainder of his fee.
Bolton have been turned down by Juventus in an attempt to sign Marcelo Zalayeta on loan. Wanderers asked if they could take the Uruguayan striker for a year with a view to a permanent deal, but the Turin club want £5m or a player-exchange for Zalayeta.
However, Bolton are still hopeful of persuading the Real Madrid midfielder Ivan Campo to sign a permanent deal. Reports had suggested that the player was to have discussions with Sporting Lisbon after talks with Wanderers reached deadlock. But the club's chairman, Phil Gartside, said he was confident Campo would stay.
Sunderland are holding out for £4m for midfielder Gavin McCann, which will probably put off both Manchester City and Aston Villa, who are hoping to pay £2m.