Manchester United will seal the permanent £35m signing of Carlos Tevez before the start of the new season, smashing the British transfer record. Talks are planned between United's chief executive, David Gill, and Tevez's adviser, Kia Joorabchian, when United return from their pre-season tour to Africa, which ends tomorrow.
The fee will beat the £31m Chelsea paid Milan to sign Andrei Shevchenko three years ago. United have felt compelled to act after leading European clubs began to express interest in the 24-year-old Argentine, whose two-year loan deal expires at the end of next season. Without a new deal, Tevez would be free to talk to other clubs in January.
It had been expected that United would open discussions in the new year but Gill has called Joorabchian in order to move the timetable along and make an announcement in the next couple of weeks. A source close to Tevez said last night: "A number of interested parties want to talk to Carlos but his heart is with Manchester United and he does not want to go anywhere else. He wants to secure his future at Old Trafford."
The deal is another significant step towards closing one of the most controversial episodes in Premier League history. Tevez's arrival at West Ham United in 2006 – along with another Argentine, Javier Mascherano, who is now at Liverpool – was shrouded in confusion over who owned the players and the issue of "third-party" involvement and possible interference. Subsequent developments included a £5.5m fine for West Ham and legal action from Sheffield United, relegated that season, that should be resolved next month.
Into that confused picture stepped United, who found themselves involved in a long and complicated saga when they tried to sign Tevez. Questions persisted over his contract with West Ham and who should receive any payments. The situation threatened to embarrass the Premier League but eventually a deal was agreed.
That deal is understood to have allowed United to pay Joorabchian and the companies which own Tevez's economic rights £6m, to cover the initial two-year loan deal. That deal had the option of a permanent three-year contract which is now being taken up, although its terms are yet to be finalised and United may want to offer a longer contract. It's believed Tevez is currently paid £90,000-a-week, making the overall package worth an amazing £60m. It is believed that West Ham, who received £2m from Joorabchian last year, are not entitled to any further payments.
The striker has been a success at Old Trafford, where he helped United win the Premier League and Champions League titles last season.
His permanent signing does not alter United's determination to hold on to Cristiano Ronaldo or to buy Dimitar Berbatov. Gill has made clear that Tevez's transfer was always budgeted for. United remain confident over Berbatov, with Tottenham Hotspur resigned to losing him once a fee is agreed. Milan announced yesterday that they are not interested in the Bulgarian, who wants to join United. Spurs want £30m for him.
Yesterday United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, admitted that his players would contest two fixtures this weekend, either side of a five-and-a-half-hour flight between Johannesburg and Abuja, because they were offered a lucrative deal to play Portsmouth in Nigeria tomorrow evening.
United, who will receive over £1.5m for the fixture against the FA Cup holders, complete their tour of South Africa today, against Kaizer Chiefs in Pretoria.
The English champions will then make the 3,000-mile trip to Nigeria. Having been paid over £1m to play in Saudi Arabia in January, United are cashing in on interest in the Premier League. "We have never been to Nigeria, but it was just an opportunity. You could say that it is partly financial, of course," Ferguson said. "We have to take into consideration these financial invitations because we have a big operation now. The squad is 23-24 players now and it has to be a well-run club to be able to afford all that."
Portsmouth, who are in Nigeria already, face Kano Pillars in Abuja today before meeting United. The two clubs meet again at Wembley for the Community Shield on 10 August. Despite the Premier League's ambitions to take games abroad, Ferguson urged the Football Association not to make such plans for the Community Shield.
He said: "I would hope that won't happen for the simple reason that the Community Shield is only seven days from the start of the season. To begin thinking of going to other countries at that time is too close."
Ferguson has distanced himself from claims that he could manage a Great Britain football team at the 2012 Olympics. Tournament organisers are understood to be keen but the Scot says his age – and the hostility of some home nations to a GB team – make the plan unlikely.
He said: "I hope I am still on this planet in 2012, first of all! I'll be 70 years of age then, so I don't need any commitment to anything like that. I would not, in any way, shape or form try to commit myself to anything like that four years away. There is nothing I can really add to it.
"I'm not sure they would allow it anyway because countries have their own identity, their own patriotism. It has been mooted for a number of years by Fifa at the World Cup that Great Britain has a team, so it would be impractical in that sense. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, even England, they all have their own identities, so I don't think it is a starter."
The biggest deals in Britain
*July 2006: Andrei Shevchenko, £31m, Milan to Chelsea
*July 2002: Rio Ferdinand £29.1m, Leeds United to Manchester United
*July 2001: Juan Sebastian Veron, £28.1m, Lazio to Manchester United
*August 1999: Nicolas Anelka £22.5m, Arsenal to Real Madrid
*World Record: Zinedine Zidane, Juventus to Real Madrid, £41m (July 2001)
Who is Kia Joorabchian?
*Kia Joorabchian is a 37-year-old Iranian-born businessman whose company and backers own Carlos Tevez and who first shot to prominence with an attempt to buy West Ham United. His involvement in football started in Brazil, at Corinthians, where he took Tevez and Javier Mascherano before bringing them to West Ham. His influence in high-profile transfers involving South American players, such as the Brazilian Jo, who recently arrived at Manchester City for £19m, has grown. Joorabchian is understood to be a multi-millionaire from the sale of his equity company, American Capital. He helped set up Media Sports Investments, which once owned Corinthians. Joorabchian is involved with several backers and is changing the way transfers are structured and the outlook on the ownership of players . Joorabchian, who would still like to own a club in this country, works closely with the Israeli agent Pini Zahavi and is an adviser to several players, including Tevez.
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