David Moyes, the Everton manager, has offered Steve McManaman a £2m contract to tempt him away from Real Madrid as well as making a record £6m bid for the Rangers captain Barry Ferguson in an attempt to stop the midfielder moving to Blackburn Rovers.
Rovers responded with a third bid of £7.5m for Ferguson, only for that to also be turned down by the Scottish club.
Moyes is hoping for a positive answer from McManaman and may be able to sign him in the next 48 hours. The midfielder is interested in the offer but wants a three-year deal to return to England - a commitment that Everton, who are trying to bring in a few new faces on a limited budget, seem reluctant to make.
Moyes, however, is hoping that the thought of "coming home" will act as an enticing incentive to the player and believes that McManaman's ability outweighs the fact that he has hardly played for a year and is also possibly past his best.
Moyes made his bid yesterday to rival that made by Blackburn for Ferguson, only for Graeme Souness's club to counter with a higher offer. The latest offer is £6.5m guaranteed and a further £1m in extras. Souness - backed by his board - tabled his new package in a show of their financial muscle after Everton joined the race.
Souness is confident that Blackburn have more money to offer Ferguson in wages than Everton, who have been trying to keep their new arrivals down to £1m-a-year in salaries.
Rovers, who yesterday completed the signing of the Liverpool defender Markus Babbel on a season-long loan deal, are happy to give Ferguson a rise on his £30,000-a-week-plus salary as they already have the likes of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke on that kind of wage.
However, Rangers still want more and the fact that it is an auction is in their favour. Everton could switch targets today if they realise the money is too much for them. Moyes is also interested in Birmingham City's Robbie Savage.
"We're looking at several players but I'm not sure whether I'll get any before the deadline. The situation changes hour-by-hour," Moyes said before his bid was trumped by Souness.
Blackburn would prefer not to be drawn in to a bidding situation but think they have more cash available to beat Everton, who are stretching their budget to breaking point.
The Blackburn chief executive John Williams remains confident that they will get their man. "He is a player that we really want to sign," he said, "but unfortunately there appears to be a big gap between the two clubs. Rangers have a very high valuation and clearly do not want to lose their player. But we will continue to talk to them."
Babbel, the former Hamburg and Bayern Munich player who helped Germany win the European Championship in England in 1996 will have to wait to make his Rovers debut.
Babbel, 31 next month, has to serve two more matches of a suspension after being sent off for butting an opponent in a Liverpool reserves match last season. He joined Liverpool in June 2000 and helped them to the treble of FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup in his first season at the club.
However, the following year he was struck down by a debilitating illness and sidelined for 15 months. The German was confined to a wheelchair for a time and feared he might never play again but fought his way back to fitness late last year, where he made the last of his 71 appearances for Liverpool.
Moyes, meanwhile, will take his complaint that teenage striker Wayne Rooney is being targeted by referees to the match officials' chief, Philip Don, the Premiership club said on Wednesday.
Moyes was unhappy with Rooney's booking during Everton's 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic on Tuesday, saying it was not merited.
"I feel at the moment that every time Wayne Rooney plays referees are desperate to get him booked," Moyes said.
"I find it quite incredible and I will be making contact with Philip Don to express that feeling to him as we have the means to that now," he told the club's official website.
Managers have been permitted access to Don, the Premier League referees' Select Group Manager, over perceived injustices when in the past they were not allowed to air their grievances to the refereeing body.
"I didn't feel there was a serious tackle in the game and he was so quick in getting his card out - it was like it was in his hand before he did it," Moyes said.
Rooney, who was also booked in his first game of the season against Arsenal, scored a brilliant equaliser against Charlton but was then booked for the 10th time since his debut last season. He has also been sent off once.
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