Manchester United will have to pay around £25m for Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri as the north London club are reluctant to do business with any of their Premier League rivals.
United lead the chase for Nasri, 24, who has one year remaining on his contract with Arsenal and has rejected the club's offer of a new five-year deal worth £90,000 a week.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger had initially ruled out selling him to another English club, but it is understood his stance has mellowed slightly in recent days as the alternative is to allow a player who cost £15.8m from Marseilles in 2008 to leave for nothing when his contract expires.
However it would take a bid of around £25m for Wenger to sanction selling the Frenchman to one of Arsenal's direct rivals. United have made their interest clear, while Manchester City and Chelsea are paying close attention to developments and may enter the bidding should other potential deals fall through.
Milan and Internazionale have also expressed interest in Nasri, who scored 15 goals last season. He is due back at Arsenal on Thursday for the start of pre-season training, and Wenger still harbours hopes he can be convinced to sign the contract offer that remains on the table. Nasri, however, wants £120,000 a week, which would exceed the pay structure imposed by the Arsenal board.
Wenger is especially keen to keep Nasri as he accepts he will be unable to prevent Cesc Fabregas leaving for Barcelona, as long as the two clubs can agree a fee. Arsenal value their captain at £40m and last year rejected a £29m bid from Barcelona for the player who is contracted until 2015.
Gaël Clichy yesterday completed his transfer to Manchester City from Arsenal for a fee rising to £10m. The defender, who spent the morning undergoing a medical at a private hospital, was in the final year of his contract at Arsenal and, although Wenger was keen to keep his fellow Frenchman, he had made it clear he would not be signing an extension.
It is understood Wenger is not looking to sign a left-back as a replacement but is considering asking Thomas Vermaelen to move across from centre half. Instead Wenger is looking at signing two centre halves, and is inching towards a move for Bolton Wanderers' England international Gary Cahill. Bolton are understood to want the full £17m that was written into the defender's contract as a buy-out clause, while Arsenal would prefer a player plus cash deal, and are prepared to offer Bolton the England under-21 international Henri Lansbury.
The Bolton manager Owen Coyle yesterday claimed his club have yet to receive a formal offer for Cahill, 25. Coyle said: "I have been very open. Some of the elite clubs in this country have noted their interest. But there has been nothing concrete. Until that changes, Gary is a Bolton player. Gary has been the subject of speculation every day, probably to the point he is frustrated by it."