United target Cicinho clears discipline hurdle

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The Independent Football

The 25-year-old spent a few hours in Manchester on Wednesday evening before returning to Brazil via Italy yesterday. The São Paulo right-back, who came to prominence in this summer's Confederations' Cup, has been rated at £8m by his club side who are struggling against relegation after winning the Copa Libertadores last month.

Cicinho was given a three-match ban by the Brazilian football disciplinary authorities for calling a referee a "son of a bitch" after he was sent off in a match against Juventude on 31 July. His charge was reduced after a hearing with the player's lawyer but he originally faced a much more serious sentence of two to six months out of the game for "verbally assaulting" the referee.

United are understood to be interested in Cicinho, who would provide competition for Gary Neville at right-back, but they are not prepared to pay anything like the £8m that São Paulo want for the player. Milan were hopeful of signing him next summer, when their current Brazilian right-back Cafu plans to retire but they were told by the player's advisers that he is exploring the possibility of coming to England.

The player has spent the week in Italy - where his grandfathers came from - and has applied for an Italian passport which would excuse him from having to apply for a work permit. Although he has been tracked by Milan, Juventus and Real Betis in Spain, the two Italian clubs now feel that they would be unable to match the fee or the personal terms United could give.

Cicinho has indicated in the past that he would prefer to stay in Brazil until the summer in order to advance his World Cup prospects but São Paulo are more likely to choose to realise the player's value either this summer or in the January transfer window. Yesterday the club said that they had not received an offer for Cicinho but he had travelled to Italy to arrange a passport with their permission.

Any purchase of the player is likely to be tricky with issues over who owns his registration - a common issue with South American footballers. Marcelo Gouvea, the São Paulo president, said: "I will do everything to keep the player at São Paulo but if the English were to pay $12m [£8m] for his transfer there is nothing I can do to keep him."

Cicinho - full name Cicero Joao de Cezare - is contracted to São Paulo for another three years. He has only six caps for Brazil but has been tipped to succeed Cafu as the country's next right-back. Although a midfielder to replace Roy Keane remains a priority for United they have still not found a player that they consider to be capable of filling that role.

Ruud van Nistelrooy intends to extend his stay at United as long as possible. The Netherlands striker is still with the club despite rumours linking him with pastures new.

With a contract that runs for another three years, the 29-year-old is committed to United well into his 30s and although speculation has repeatedly suggested he could be tempted by a move to Spain, Van Nistelrooy is adamant his horizons do not extend beyond Old Trafford.

"The biggest goal I have is to stay at Manchester United as long as I possibly can," he said "I want to remain at this level and continue playing at a club like this. After that, maybe I will have a couple of years somewhere else but at the moment I just want to stay here."