Manchester United last night appeared to have secured the purchase of Dimitar Berbatov for Spurs' full £30m asking price plus agreeing to Frazier Campbell going on loan for a year to White Hart Lane, although United were run perilously close by Manchester City.
Earlier in the day, their newly enriched local rivals offered £34m for Berbatov, a sum accepted by Tottenham who gave permission for City to talk to the Bulgarian. The City manager, Mark Hughes, said that it was then "really about the boy making a decision", which Berbatov promptly did. He ignored City's attempts to contact him and travelled to United's training ground and on to the Bridgewater Hospital in Manchester for a medical.
Those close to the deal said that they were surprised at the risk United took in dealing with the player direct before they had a deal in place with Spurs. Sky Sports News cameras shot pictures of the player in an office shaking hands with the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Spurs got their £30m fee and had the option to sign Campbell on loan. But they failed to sign Diego Milito or Sergio Garcia from Real Zaragoza. Milito has agreed to join Genoa.
Campbell is not the ideal solution for Tottenham, who had told Berbatov all along that he would be allowed to leave only if the club could sign three strikers. They confirmed the signing of striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and defender Verlan Corluka, but the striking options left to their manager, Juande Ramos, are now far from ideal.
Berbatov's will be the highest-value deal United have struck. Rio Ferdinand's move from Leeds in 2002 cost around £31m.