Manchester United are understood to be in advanced talks with Real Madrid over the £48 million (Dh292m) signing of winger Angel Di Maria.
Di Maria’s agent Jorge Mendes is due to fly from Singapore to London today to finalise the details of a contract that will reportedly pay the Argentine international £150,000 a week (Dh900,000), a significant increase on his £60,000-a-week (Dh365,000) contract at Madrid.
Di Maria, who will be given the No7 shirt at United, has been deemed surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu by president Florentino Perez as he looks to raise funds to sign striker Radamel Falcao from Monaco.
Despite his role as one of Madrid’s key players in the second half of last season, Di Maria has been shunted down the pecking order by the summer arrivals of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
The 26-year-old was left out of the squad for Friday’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and has resigned himself to the fact his future lies away from the Spanish capital.
On Thursday Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Di Maria had turned down the offer of a new contract at the Bernabeu.
“Di Maria asked to go,” he said. “The player has to look for a solution. He’s a Real Madrid player and until 31 August, as I’ve already said, anything can happen.”
United are also believed to be pursuing Ajax’s Daley Blind and another midfielder as Louis van Gaal tries to strengthen a squad that looks ill-equipped to challenge for a top-four place.
Defence is also where United looked most vulnerable last week against Swansea and leading out Sunderland today at the Stadium of Light will be John O’Shea, who spent a dozen years at United, earning nearly 400 appearances and a shelf of medals without ever nailing down a regular first-team spot.
O’Shea has become used to managerial change at Sunderland – Gus Poyet is his fourth in as many years – but the experience is new to his old club with Van Gaal following David Moyes’ brief tenure.
“It’s going to be an interesting season, everyone is waiting to see how they’re doing,” O’Shea said. “They’ve lost a lot of experience but have got a very experienced manager who has been successful wherever he’s been.
“He looks a great character. Expectation levels are always sky high and that won’t change. They always expect to be challenging for every trophy they get involved in and that won’t change.”
English football was preparing to welcome back one of its most controversial characters on Friday amid reports Liverpool had made an audacious move to sign Mario Balotelli.
Speculation over Balotelli's future intensified Thursday after AC Milan acknowledged the temperamental Italy striker was on his way out of the San Siro.
The Milanese club have agreed to let the 24-year-old move to Anfield in a transfer worth 20 million euros (Dhs 97m), according to reports in England and Italy.
The Milan website reported that Balotelli had said his goodbyes to players and staff after training on Thursday morning, suggesting only personal terms remain to be finalised.
The Liverpool Echo claimed Balotelli's agent was already in the city to finalise the move but that the English giants were looking for reassurances that the player could keep a lid on his explosive temper.
If the deal goes through quickly, his first match could be at his former club Manchester City, the reigning English champions, on Monday.
Liverpool, however, have yet to make any formal statement, but a move for the forward would be consistent with their aim to land a top quality replacement for Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.
During Liverpool's tour of the United States earlier this month, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli, saying: "I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool."
But with the close of the transfer window looming at the end of the month, it seems the Liverpool manager has had a change of heart over the pursuit of a player he has described as a rare talent.
Balotelli's two-and-a-half years with Manchester City were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player.
He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.
Liverpool had reportedly targeted Monaco's Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez but made little headway in their attempts to secure the Colombian, who missed the second half of last season and the World Cup with a serious knee injury.
A return to England and a fresh start could suit Balotelli. The striker has been subjected to criticism in his home country for a perceived poor attitude during Italy's World Cup campaign, which ended with the Azzurri flying home at the end of the group stage.
As the most prominent black player in Italy, and the first to represent the country at a major tournament, he has also had to endure regular racist abuse of a kind which is now rare in English stadiums.
Balotelli was always a high-profile figure during his time in England, where he won both the Premier League and the FA Cup but also become a fixture in the gossip pages of the national press.
What he perceived as his unjust treatment led to a well-known goal celebration where, after scoring against local rivals Manchester United, he lifted his shirt to reveal a slogan saying 'Why Always Me?'
Balotelli eventually left for Milan in January 2013, Mancini having decided the time was right to cash in on his erratic forward.
Suarez caused Rodgers plenty of problems but the Northern Irishman was lauded for the way he was able to get the best out of his star striker, who scored 31 goals as the Reds narrowly missed out on the Premier League title last season.
Suarez left Liverpool for Barcelona in a 93.5 million euros (Dhs 456m) move following his four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil.
Balotelli scored 16 goals for Milan last season, as well as the winner in Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that midfielder Angel Di Maria has asked to leave the European champions before the end of the transfer window.
The 26-year-old Argentine – who missed the World Cup final defeat by Germany because of injury – was a star performer as Real claimed their 10th European crown last season, but has fallen down the pecking order at the Bernabeu due to the arrivals of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Premier League giants Manchester United and French champions Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly interested in signing him.
"I am surprised to read that there is a disagreement between myself and the club," said Ancelotti. "There is no disagreement and we both think the same way. The situation is clear. The player asked to leave in the summer and rejected an offer from the club.
"Therefore we have tried to look for other players. It is a situation that the player himself has to resolve.
"If he doesn't find a solution for his future, then, come the end of the market, we will make up and he will work for us like he did last season. There won't be any problem."
Ancelotti also hinted that World Cup winner Sami Khedira could also be set to leave the Spanish capital in the coming weeks. The German midfielder, who missed the 1-0 win over Argentina because of an injury he suffered warming-up for the final, has been linked with a return to his homeland with Bayern Munich and has rejected an offer of a new contract, with his current deal set to expire in 2015.
"Khedira's situation is different because he has just a year left on his contract and has rejected a new one. We will see what happens, but his situation is different because he has not asked to leave."
Real also received a boost on Thursday ahead of the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup away to Atletico Madrid on Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo returned to training. The World Player of the Year had to be withdrawn at half-time in Tuesday's first leg, which finished 1-1, due to a hamstring injury.
However, Ancelotti confirmed he will be fit and available for selection at the Vicente Calderon as Real aim to win already their second trophy of the season after claiming the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Sevilla last week.