Newcastle have put a £25m valuation on the England midfielder Kieron Dyer as speculation mounts that Chelsea and Manchester United are ready to make a bid for the player.
Reports over the weekend claimed that the Blues' billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, has sanctioned a move for Dyer or his team-mate Jermaine Jenas. United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is looking to replace David Beckham after losing out to Barcelona in an attempt to sign Ronaldinho from Paris St-Germain and the Old Trafford club have previously expressed an interest in Dyer.
It is understood that the Magpies have no particular desire to sell Dyer and will not allow any club to prise away Jenas, a £5m signing from Nottingham Forest as an 18-year-old. However, if either Chelsea or the Premiership champions want to talk to Dyer, they will have to start at £25m.
"We don't want to sell Kieron Dyer and we don't have to sell him," a United source said yesterday in Malaysia, where the club is taking part in the inaugural FA Premier League Asia Cup. "But every player has his price. That price for Kieron Dyer is £25m, and it is only right that both Chelsea and Manchester United should know."
Dyer was among the Newcastle party which flew out to the Far East yesterday, and they will be joined in Kuala Lumpur today by the men from Stamford Bridge. Indeed, the Londoners will arrive to find they are staying in the same luxury hotel as the United chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and his deputy, Douglas Hall.
The Blues have been linked with a bewildering and growing number of transfer targets at increasingly astronomical fees ever since Abramovich sealed his takeover. Glen Johnson was signed for £6m from West Ham and Geremi moved from Real Madrid for £7m. Yesterday Wayne Bridge was bought from Southampton for £7m and, Damien Duff, of Blackburn Rovers, is still involved in talks.
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