The representatives of Roma's gifted central midfielder Daniele de Rossi are understood to have made Manchester United aware of his availability next season, as he contemplates removing his family from the city where his father-in-law was murdered and he is now understood to be the victim of a blackmail campaign.
De Rossi has a year to run on his £60,000-a-week contract at Roma but though he is the vice captain of the side and plays in the city where he was born and bred, there is an increasing sense that one of the more established talents in Italy will be at the centre of one of the most intriguing transfer stories of the summer.
Though reports from Spain yesterday suggested that Real Madrid may have an interest in a £20m-rated player, the approach to United lends credence to the view that he favours a radical change of scene after the events of the past two years.
Roma would not stand in his way should he decide to leave one year early and uncertainty over both the manager and ownership of Roma may be a deciding factor. At 27, De Rossi does not fit the United age profile for acquisitions, though he is one of the continent's leading midfield talents.
De Rossi's family was devastated by the events of 11 August 2008 in which Massimo Pisnoli, 48, father of De Rossi's then wife Tamara, was killed by two bullets delivered from a hunting gun, near the car park of a railway station in Aprilia, not far from Rome. Mr Pisnoli's body was found a few days later but the story has since become more complex and De Rossi has been drawn into it.
Two men, aged 48 and 40, were arrested and confessed to the killing, apparently a revenge over the carve-up of money stolen during a bank robbery where Pisnoli and the two killers had taken part. Pisnoli had a criminal record for robbery and theft. De Rossi and his wife subsequently separated in 2009.
Only a narrow group of clubs are likely to be within reach of signing De Rossi and though Manchester City are one of them, he is not known to have any particular association with Roberto Mancini. Roma have sacked Claudio Ranieri and replaced him temporarily by Vincenzo Montella.
Thomas DiBenedetto, leader of an American consortium and a business partner at Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group, is hoping to buy off Roma's Sensi family within the next three weeks. The Americans have the same view as Roma's current owners – that De Rossi might understandably want to leave.
Meanwhile, the level of interest paid last year by United's owners on £220m payment-in-kind loans which have since been paid off, has been revealed as £30.2m – taking the Red Football Joint Venture, the Glazer family's parent company that owns United to a £108.9m loss.
Red Football's outgoings also include some one-off costs from setting up the £526m bond scheme last year to replace their bank loans, according to accounts for the year ending 30 June 2010. The previous year the company had recorded £21m profit thanks largely to the £80m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.