Man U launch £63m bid for Bayern's Franck Ribéry
Manchester United have made an offer of about €70m (£62.5m) for the Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribéry as they close in on a deal that would shatter the world transfer record.
Sources in Munich confirmed the bid has been received for the France international, who has made his desire to leave Germany known in the past few weeks. United scouts have repeatedly watched the 26-year-old in recent Bundesliga matches and sounded out his friends and entourage in Munich.
United's remarkable offer, which comfortably eclipses the record £44m paid by Real Madrid for Zinedine Zidane in 2001, is contingent on the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid this summer but the approach to Bayern has been firm enough to suggest that the Portuguese"s departure is a near certainty. Although Bayern are understood to have turned down United's offer, it is considered the first serious move in a negotiation that will eventually bring the winger to Old Trafford.
Ribéry, who earns €8m a year at the Allianz Arena, the equivalent of £134,000 a week, is set to replace Ronaldo as United"s highest-paid player. Due to the unfavourable exchange rate and taxation levels in Britain, the Champions League holders, who take on Arsenal in the semi-final second leg at the Emirates Stadium tonight, will have to spend closer to £145,000 a week to match his net wages at Bayern. Money, however, is not the determining factor for Ribéry.
The former Marseille player, who moved to Munich in 2007 for €25m plus add-ons and is contracted to Bayern until 2011, has repeatedly turned down offers to renegotiate a contract extension on improved terms.Finishing only 16th in the running for the 2008 Ballon d'Or after a season in which he had inspired Bayern to a domestic double - "I am disappointed, I should have deserved better,” he said - and his club's 5-1 aggregate defeat by Barcelona in the quarter-finals of this year's Champions League seem to have convinced him that a move to a bigger club has become necessary.
Bayern's general manager, Uli Hoeness, who has ruled out a sale of Ribéry throughout the season, softened his stance over the weekend. He confirmed Bayern were already eyeing up Werder Bremen's Brazilian midfielder Diego, 24, as a possible replacement "in case Ribéry were to go”.Manchester City, who have included the Frenchman on a short-list of transfer targets, have been hampered by their lack of Champions League football next season and are not seriously in the running.
Barcelona recently came close to an agreement with Ribéry but negotiations halted when news of their interest was leaked to the French press by sources close to the player last week. Although Barcelona have not officially pulled out, United are now best placed to entice Ribéry abroad. Relations between Bayern and United are cordial despite displeasure at Sir Alex Ferguson's aggressive pursuit of Owen Hargreaves in the summer of 2006. The English international moved to Old Trafford for £17m in July 2007.
It is understood that Bayern have rejected Ferguson's first offer but, with the Germans no longer insisting on a prohibitive €150m valuation – “We would perhaps let him go for that,” Hoeness was quoted as saying in January – negotiations between the clubs are sufficiently advanced to suggest an agreement can be reached before the player goes on holiday in June.
In an interview with the French sports paper L'Equipe last week Ribéry indicated that he would leave Bayern if his team did not qualify for next season's Champions League: “In those circumstances it would indeed be very difficult to stay, that's obvious... That's why the club has to finish at least second.” Bayern are currently second in the league, three points off the leaders VfL Wolfsburg. Only Germany's top two teams are guaranteed places in the Champions League. The Guardian