Rio Ferdinand is on the brink of signing a five-year extension to his contract which will keep him at Manchester United until beyond his 33rd birthday, according to reports.
The deal, agreed in principle between the United chief executive, David Gill, and the player's agent, Pini Zahavi, will come as a relief to United as Ferdinand's advisers had suggested that negotiations would not start before the summer over an extension to the contract which expires at the end of next season.
United were well aware of the 29-year-old's ambition to play in Italy or Spain towards the end of his career. The England defender became United's biggest earner, on a wage of more than £100,000 a week, when he signed his current four-year deal in August 2005, although he was overtaken when Cristiano Ronaldo signed a deal worth about £ 120,000 a week last April.
Gill took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a statement to rebut suggestions that Ronaldo was about to be given his own new five-year contract worth £150,000 a week to deter him from moving to Real Madrid, who are reportedly now aiming to secure his services for the start of the 2009-10 campaign. "We are not in contract talks with Cristiano Ronaldo and do not intend to open any talks. He is contracted until 2012 and only one year into the deal," the statement said.