Their first strike in the summer transfer market has been a long time coming but Manchester United have finally sealed the deal for Michael Carrick - albeit it at a high price. The Tottenham midfielder could cost them as much as £18m, while Real Madrid claimed last night that they had completed the deal for United's striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The Carrick transfer was concluded in the small hours of yesterday morning and the 25-year-old was understood to be in Manchester yesterday with the likelihood he will be announced as a United player today. Around 6.30pm, Madrid announced on their website that Van Nistelrooy had signed a three-year deal at the club, following the acrimonious year-long breakdown in his relationship with United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
The announcement from Madrid came just one day after Ferguson had mocked the Spanish club's "two bob" improvement in their offer, although it is understood that Van Nistelrooy is set to leave for around £11m. It is some irony that the fee for a player who scored 150 goals for United in five years will not be enough to cover the cost of Carrick.
United last night stated that Van Nistelrooy had been given permission to travel to Madrid for a medical, but that a a deal had not been finalised.
While Ferguson had at last signed a player he has tracked for a year there is no denying that Tottenham have secured a handsome profit on a player who cost £2.75m from West Ham two years ago. Tottenham have proved dogged negotiators, refusing to countenance United's early offers of around £7m. United have tried to stress throughout that they had other options - including the Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra - but Tottenham have not buckled in their determination to get as near to their £20m valuation as possible.
While it is not clear what conditions Carrick will have to fulfil at United for Tottenham to receive payments up to £18m - they are likely to be dependent on United's success in the Premiership and Champions' League - he has certainly not come cheap. Sources at Tottenham have indicated that, had United held out, they may have been prepared to accept as little as £12m towards the end of August.
Nevertheless, the deal should make Carrick United's fifth most expensive signing behind Rio Ferdinand, Juan Sebastian Veron, Wayne Rooney and Van Nistelrooy. The player had two years left on his Tottenham deal and had rejected a new contract offer.
As revealed by The Independent last month, talks over Carrick started before England's World Cup match against Paraguay and have made for an unsettling summer for him. He was picked by Sven Goran Eriksson in the first XI to play Ecuador - his debut competitive international - and then dropped for the quarter-final defeat by Portugal, knowing all the time his future was yet to be decided.
There have been further reports linking United with the Argentina defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano, of Corinthians, and Ferguson's interest in him would suggest the United manager believes Carrick alone will not suffice. For all his many qualities as a passer of the ball, the midfielder is not a ball-winner - the like of which United have missed since Roy Keane's departure in November.
Mascherano and Diarra are the more obvious candidates for that role, with interest in Deportivo La Coruña's Aldo Duscher used only as stalking horse for Carrick. Any move for the World Cup-winning Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso would seem unlikely now Milan have been given the right to play in the Champions' League this season.
While they have lost Carrick and missed out on Damien Duff, Tottenham can still consider the summer's trading a success. They secured Ivory Coast's talented midfielder Didier Zokora long before the Carrick deal was concluded, have beaten Arsenal to the very highly rated 22-year-old Benoît Assou-Ekotto from Lens and spent £10.9m on Dimitar Berbatov.
Tottenham's failure to sign Duff came down primarily to the player's wage demands and they were also equally unable, or unwilling, to offer Carrick the £50,000-a-week salary he was hoping to negotiate.
Van Nistelrooy's departure leaves United with just a month to refine their transfer targets. The refusal of Fernando Torres to countenance leaving Atletico Madrid means United may have to look for an alternative, with Jermain Defoe among those considered.
Ferguson has Rooney, Louis Saha and Alan Smith among his senior strikers. At 33, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can only be expected to have a limited impact while Paul Scholes will be required in midfield, so the 19-year-old Giuseppe Rossi may gain more first-team chances.
There is also the small matter of another defensive midfielder. Currently it would appear Carrick and Scholes are the favourites to start for United in central midfield, a pairing that lacks a genuine ball-winner.
United travel to Amsterdam next week to play Porto and Ajax. They will expect to have Carrick in the squad.
* Van Nistelrooy's new Real team-mate, David Beckham, pulled up 30 minutes into his first pre-season training session with Real yesterday, still troubled by his World Cup left knee injury. Beckham faces two weeks on the sidelines.
Van Nistelrooy the flying Dutchman who became an Old Trafford outcast
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals for Manchester United after joining in 2001 for a then British record fee of £19m.
Van Nistelrooy is Real's third signing under their new president, Ramon Calderon, following the Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro and the Brazil midfielder Emerson. He will link up with his former Manchester United team-mate David Beckham.
The 30-year-old Dutchman put in a transfer request two weeks ago having fallen out of favour at Old Trafford in the latter part of last season as United's manager, Alex Ferguson, increasingly looked to Louis Saha as a partner for Wayne Rooney in attack.
He was an unused substitute in United's 4-0 victory over Wigan in the League Cup final in February and stormed out of Old Trafford when left out of the team for their final League match of the season, against Charlton in May.
Van Nistelrooy has scored 28 goals in 54 games for the Netherlands, but he found the net just once at the recent World Cup finals in Germany and was left on the bench by the Dutch coach, Marco van Basten, during their second-round defeat against Portugal.
The Dutchman will face stiff competition from Raul, Robinho, Julio Baptista, Antonio Cassano and Ronaldo for a place in the Real attack, although his arrival is likely to hasten the departure of at least one of those forwards. Real are in the process of trying to put together a team under Capello as they strive to win their first trophy in four seasons.
Van Nistelrooy started his career with the Dutch sides Den Bosch and Heerenveen before joining PSV Eindhoven in 1998. While there, he scored an impressive 62 goals from 67 appearances.
Ferguson attempted to bring Van Nistelrooy to United in April 2000, but the striker failed a medical and then sustained a cruciate ligament injury while training with PSV. Ferguson persisted, though, and he finally arrived in 2001, repaying the faith shown in him by scoring 36 goals in his debut season.
He was the Premiership's leading scorer with 25 goals when United won the title in 2003 and was also named PFA Player of the Year.
Van Nistelrooy is United's all-time top scorer in Europe, having surpassed Denis Law's long-standing record in September 2004 and is the fourth highest scorer in the European Cup, level on 47 goals with Eusebio.
Hot deals: Top 10 moves
1 Andrei Shevchenko (Milan to Chelsea, £30m)
2 Michael Carrick (Tottenham to Man Utd, £18m)
3 Jon Obi Mikel (Lyn Oslo to Chelsea, £16m)
4 Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd to Real Madrid, £11m)
5 Dimitar Berbatov (B Leverkusen to Tottenham, £10.9m)
6 Andrew Johnson (Crystal Palace to Everton, £8.6m)
7 Tomas Rosicky (B Dortmund to Arsenal, £8m)
8 Jermaine Pennant (Birmingham to Liverpool, £6.7m)
9 Craig Bellamy (Blackburn to Liverpool, £6m)
10 Emile Heskey (Birmingham to Wigan, £5.5m)Reuse content