Gaitan deal on even after United denial

Reports from Portugal confirm talks are being held over £29m signing of Argentinian midfielder

Portugal's conviction that Manchester United are seeking a preliminary agreement on price for Benfica's Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan were strengthened yesterday when the weekly sports paper, which has closest and privileged access to Benfica, led with the story.

United do not comment on transfer speculation, though there were strong assertions from Manchester that the club do not have any interest in the player. Yet in Portugal, where there has been widespread surprise that Benfica have not even denied the story – first published in the The Independent at the weekend – there is widely believed to be a preliminary agreement on the table. Record, a sports publication considered to be the best authority on Benfica, asserted that the story is valid. Its own account, which appears to be separately sourced, tallied almost entirely with reports so far – the paper's only doubt being whether discussions on a preliminary deal are continuing or have concluded with a £29.3m valuation. "Gaitan – the end of the era; business to be completed at the end of the season," read the paper's headline.

Though Portuguese sources suggest that Jorge Mendes, the agent who has helped to take Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson and David de Gea to Old Trafford over the past eight years, has been working on securing a deal which could value the player at closer to £35m dependent on his performances in the second half of the season, it is becoming increasingly clear that such an arrangement would not protect the buying club from a counter-offer. If another side comes in with a higher bid, the initial bidder would have to match it or lose out.

United, who travel to Fulham tonight with faint hopes of leading the Premier League at Christmas being contingent on a win coinciding with Manchester City's first home defeat since 20 December last year, appear to have a strong hold on Dimitar Berbatov's future – despite the fact that as of 1 January he can speak to other clubs about a move at the end of the season.

The Bulgarian striker's right to speak to suitors is triggered by him entering the final six months if his contract. But United's sway over him is the result of a "one-way" option in his contract which enables them to extend it by a year at any time until it expires. Berbatov has no say in whether United might invoke it. It is unclear whether United have yet taken that step. If the club have not, it seems that Berbatov could agree next month to join another club – only for United to insist at a later date that he remains theirs for another year.

Tonight takes Chris Smalling back to the club which gave him his big break. "I see my time there as a big two years" he said. "My first year was about finding my feet and the second was about showcasing what I can do. Without [then manager] Roy Hodgson giving me my chance there I wouldn't be here so it's a time I look upon fondly. It'll be nice to go back and see a few of the players and play back at the Cottage.

"The players always look forward to this time of year with plenty of the games. We're used to the demands and it's a big opportunity to pick up a lot of points – we want to get maximum points. Christmas can be a hindrance on some and can sometimes make or break you in terms of kicking on, but this is a period where we really need to kick on and show everybody we mean business."

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?