Hargreaves' plea for United move

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The Independent Online

Owen Hargreaves will make another plea to the Bayern Munich hierarchy today to be allowed to move to Manchester United even though the German club have already turned down three requests from the England international. The fee on offer of £14m is not considered enough by a club who have already lost Michael Ballack this summer.

Hargreaves, 25, born in Canada to English parents, has never made a secret of his desire to play in the Premiership, although he has never been quite so explicit as he was in yesterday morning's Sport Bild magazine, where he described United's offer as "fantastic". In what was intended as a clear signal to Bayern, he said that he wanted to "take the next step in my development".

Thus far, Bayern have been unimpressed by United's offer for a player they can ill afford to lose. They have pointed to the £18.6m fee United paid for Michael Carrick and suggested that Hargreaves is worth at least the same. Bayern are understood to have rejected a player plus cash deal involving Ruud van Nistelrooy earlier this summer before the striker joined Real Madrid.

It is a difficult situation for Hargreaves, who has not taken the decision to ask publicly for a move lightly. He is contracted to Bayern until 2010 and, in three meetings with the club's general manager, Uli Höness, in recent weeks, has been told on each occasion that he cannot leave. A further meeting planned in the next few days is intended to increase the pressure on the German champions, but they are only likely to respond to a serious offer from United.

Yesterday, Marcus Hörwick, a spokesman for Bayern, said that Hargreaves' latest public declaration changed nothing. "I have just spoken with Uli Höness and he is absolutely clear that selling Owen Hargreaves is not an issue," Hörwick said. "He has recently signed a three-year contract extension and will be fulfilling that deal.

"What Mr Höness says is enough to end any speculation. Owen Hargreaves will be staying with us for the remainder of the four years on his contract."

Hargreaves, now finally a key part of the new manager Steve McClaren's England plans, after more than five years on the fringes of the team, is eager to consolidate his new status with a move to the Premiership. He has always said that he would move only to a club with Champions' League status - a proposed transfer to Tottenham fell through two years ago - and his extraordinary performance in England's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal has raised his status considerably.

Hargreaves said: "I have played more than 200 games for Bayern and that has been a very important part of my career, but now I have got to take the next step in my development. I have more of an affinity with the Premier League now than I ever have before.

"The offer from Manchester United is fantastic. To play [for Manchester United] is a great opportunity and I would be happy if I got that chance. Particularly as an England international, it's of interest and you never know if such an opportunity will arise again. Mr Höness knows what an opportunity this is for me."

Hargreaves' agent, Roman Grill, who also works in the Bayern Munich press office, was in Manchester yesterday with many of the England players' representatives to discuss the latest player pool arrangements. Hargreaves and his advisers expect Bayern to make a final decision on his future within days, although it will be dependent on United raising their offer.

Hargreaves will also talk to the Bayern manager, Felix Magath, in the next few days to try to persuade him to agree to a transfer, although the initial signs do not look good for him. Magath said yesterday: "I am not planning to get rid of any players, particularly not Hargreaves - it has never been an issue."

The move for Hargreaves suggests that United's transfer strategy has changed considerably over the past two months. They had initially set their sights on the Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra and also made enquiries about the Argentine Javier Mascherano.

Now, however, United seem to feel that Hargreaves can fulfil a role alongside Carrick, although it seems unlikely they will get the Bayern man any cheaper.

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