jueves, 28 de abril de 2011

Manchester United ready to pounce for Manuel Neuer as row brews between ... - Telegraph.co.uk

Bayern's path to signing Neuer appears to have been complicated by the keeper's stunning display against United, however. And Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt insists that the club will not be bullied into selling Neuer, despite his admission last week that he will not renew his contract, which expires in June next year.

Heldt said: "His value on the transfer market is already very high. I don't know if it can still go up, but watching this match [against United], I said to myself, 'Why sell such a player?'

"We have the world's best goalkeeper and, after the United game, people in 140 countries now know this. But the fact is that we have a contract with Neuer that runs until 2012 and that is the only thing that counts.

"I know the mechanics of this business and, if a club offers 100 million for him, then you cannot expect me to say that he is not for sale.

"But we have seen his value to us and money cannot quantify his contribution in all competitions, so we are very relaxed about the situation."

Neuer's tearful admission that he would cut his ties with Schalke, having arrived at the club as a six-year-old prodigy, prompted an angry backlash from supporters, who regard the prospect of a move to Bayern – Schalke's bitter rivals – as little short of treachery.

The keeper also faces a battle for hearts and minds at the Allianz Arena, however, should he pursue a move to Bayern. Such is the animosity between the two clubs that Neuer was greeted with banners declaring 'No Neuer Here!' when Schalke played Bayern in Munich last month.

Neuer is already an unpopular figure among Bayern supporters after celebrating a Schalke victory two seasons ago by mimicking former Bayern keeper Oliver Kahn's trophy-lifting celebration in front of the Munich fans.

Whether Ferguson is prepared to perform a U-turn by making a firm move for Neuer is debatable, however.

Despite United goalkeeper coach Eric Steele voicing strong support for Neuer, Ferguson is of the belief that Bayern are unlikely to relinquish their grip, hence United's failure so far to lodge a bid for the keeper.

United are prepared to meet Atletico's £22 million valuation of De Gea, but the Spain Under-21 keeper is unconvinced by the prospect of a move to England and his reticence has led to United exploring the possibility of striking a deal with Sporting Lisbon for Rui Patricio.

At £10 million, the 23-year-old would be an inexpensive acquisition, but at this stage, he is regarded as a contingency plan, rather than a prime target.

Steele has also monitored the 18-year-old Racing Genk goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois as a long-term prospect and sources in Belgium have claimed that conversations relating to Courtois centred on him being identified as a cover for Stekelenburg, the injured Ajax keeper.

United's Dutch first-team coach, Rene Meulensteen, has admitted that the Holland No?1 is a leading target and, having told Ajax he will not stay beyond the final 12 months of his contract, is expected to leave the Amsterdam club for no more than £15?million this summer.

The inquiries for De Gea and Patricio are typical of United's broad approach to recruiting players, with the club previously having made decoy moves for players – notably the aborted move for Villarreal's Marcos Senna while chasing Owen Hargreaves – before signing another target.

Intriguingly, United retain a strong interest in Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, whose £20?million escape clause at Anfield can be triggered by a club in the Champions League.

While Reina appears to have restated his commitment to Liverpool in recent days, United have not ruled out a move for the 28 year-old, believing that his escape clause removes the obvious difficulties of doing business with their century-old rivals at Anfield.

Neuer's performance on Tuesday has highlighted the availability of a rising star, however, and a warm welcome from 75,000 United supporters at Old Trafford ahead of next Wednesday's second-leg could yet trigger an unlikely decision by the German to place United ahead of Bayern.

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