In a development destined to send a chill through any clubs seeking to make up the gap on Barcelona, the European Champions are likely to end Manchester City's pursuit of Udinese's Alexis Sanchez this week with a £32m move taking him to the Nou Camp.
The rest of City's transfer plans had been on hold pending their pursuit of the Chilean forward, with chief executive Garry Cook leading negotiations last week. But City's £25m valuation of the 22-year-old has been matched by Barcelona, and the Catalans' willingness to offer a further £7m in performance-related add-ons allied to the striker's preference to join them is expected to seal the deal. A late £31m bid by Chelsea cannot be ruled out, but Gino Pozzo, who manages Udinese's transfer business for his father, club owner Giampaolo, is likely to favour Barcelona over City, Manchester United, Juventus and Internazionale.
Pozzo had initially suggested that City were in the box seat for Sanchez, though that was before Udinese's series of meetings with interested clubs. City are unwilling to pay the usual £2m-£3m premium they are charged this summer and Barcelona are understood to have been the first club to meet the asking price.
Sanchez has been in Santiago, in his native Chile, to be a part of the national side's preparations for next month's Copa America over the weekend, but sources in Chile suggest that the national manager, Claudio Borghi, has sanctioned the player's flight to Barcelona to complete his move, if that is required. Borghi wants Sanchez to join Barcelona, and the view from Santiago is that a curious Twitter post from Fernando Felicevich, Sanchez's agent, indicates the deal is done. "'Everything's gone fine until now', said the pig with the apple in his mouth," he posted.
If Barcelona do conclude the deal this week, it will come as a blow to City, who initially thought they had lost Sanchez to Barcelona several weeks - ago, only for the deal to be scuppered by the unwillingness of the Spanish striker Bojan Krkic to head the other way in part-exchange to cement the deal. But City's willingness to be flexible, offering a player of their own to Udinese as part of a deal, came to nothing. Barcelona maintained contact with Udinese and the player's own desires came into it.
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