Unsettled Gravesen may tempt United back into transfer market

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The Independent Online

Manchester United's January transfer window spending has cost the Glazer family close to £12m in fees for Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra but it has not stopped them from also making enquiries about Real Madrid's Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen, who is out of favour at the Bernabeu and almost certain to leave.

The former Everton player, who is 30 in March, is aware of Sir Alex Ferguson's interest in him but is still uncertain as to whether there will be a bid by United this month or in the summer when the club will be forced to address their shortages in midfield.

Officials at United have remained adamant that there will be no more money spent this summer and their valuation of the player is believed to be at least £1m less than the price placed on him by Real Madrid.

United's interest in Gravesen is long-standing and he was admired by Ferguson even before his move to the Bernabeu one year ago. Sources close to the player say that they know there has been an interest expressed in Gravesen by United but that they have had no indication yet from Real Madrid that a transfer is imminent or that they should make any move to discuss personal terms.

There is also great interest in the player from Germany, where he played previously, and Gravesen, under contract until 2008, was quoted in Danish newspapers yesterday saying that it was up to Real to make a decision. "The ball is in Madrid's court. They are the ones who have to take the decision, not me," he said. "They have to decide once and for all if they want me or not."

Real Madrid are understood to have valued Gravesen at £3.4m, a price which United and a number of other European clubs consider too high. The Real president Florentino Perez said two weeks ago that the midfielder was not for sale and if they were to sell him then the club would have to be confident the price was, at the very least, equal to the £2.5m they paid Everton for him.

A key attraction about signing Gravesen is that for an international with a good reputation, he is not an exceptionally high earner and would not expect to be one of the club's best-paid players, despite his age. His move to Real was undertaken out of a desire to play at a famous club at the very top level and he would not allow a disagreement over personal terms to scupper any move to United.

His agent is the former United player John Sivabaek and he has been in Spain this week completing the transfer of another client, Morten Skoubo, from Brondby to Real Sociedad. Sivabaek will then travel to Madrid to discuss Gravesen's position with Real, where he has been out of favour for the past three months. He said again yesterday that he had not been told that a bid for the player was imminent.

The former Real coach Wanderley Luxemburgo looked unfavourably upon a red card that Gravesen earned in October just minutes after coming on as a substitute against Valencia. Since then Gravesen has made just brief substitute appearances in the league as well as playing in domestic cup competition and has fared little better under the new coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro.

In the club's midfield hierarchy he has fallen behind Pablo Garcia, Guti, Ivan Helguera and Sergio Ramos as first choice for the midfield holding role, and Lopez Caro said yesterday that any players who wished to leave Real would be welcome to do so.

"Anyone who is unsettled here should head for the door and go," Lopez Caro said. "If they are not prepared to help the team they shouldn't try and fool themselves or the club."

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