Manchester United completed their first major signing of the summer yesterday, but it was the Sunderland reserve striker David Bellion, rather than the club's reported No 1 target, Ronaldinho, who put pen to paper.
The 20-year-old Bellion, signed on a free transfer, declared himself "really excited" after agreeing a four-year deal. However, that will do little to offset fears that United's attempt to sign Ronaldinho is not progressing as hoped.
Ronaldinho's future looked less certain yesterday as Paris St-Germain claimed Real Madrid had made a bid and that the asking price for the Brazilian was now closer to £30m. The United chief executive, Peter Kenyon, is due to meet the PSG president, Francis Graille, today.
Graille, who has just agreed a sponsorship deal for PSG with the French TV station Canal Plus, claimed that Real had offered £23m for Ronaldinho - paying £7.6m now and taking him a year later.
He said: "If United arrive with an offer of £31m it can happen quickly. Real are offering us the money in a year, but would pay a third of it today. We want him to stay but we have an offer from Real and I have told them I am open to talks. There is also an offer from Barcelona but this involves players. I have only had a polite, thirty-second call from Manchester."
United know their original, wildly optimistic offer of £10m is well short of the figure needed. Kenyon, who is speaking to Nantes officials to tidy up a deal for the Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba Djemba at about £2.5m, will now have to double that sum or more to secure the club's No 1 target.
But Harry Kewell, reportedly a long-time Old Trafford target, may be heading for another destination as the Leeds United striker is the subject of interest from six clubs. With Leeds growing increasingly impatient over the Australian's protracted but seemingly inevitable departure from Elland Road, Bernie Mandic, Kewell's agent, said Milan, Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United plus an unnamed side - rumoured to be Chelsea - are chasing the player. Kewell is expected to decide his future before the end of the week.
Leeds, who were yesterday linked with Parma's Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata, insist that Mark Viduka will not be sold to Barcelona despite the club's debts of more than £50m.Reuse content