Manchester United could be about to break the British transfer record by launching a £45m bid for Valencia striker David Villa.
The Daily Mirror report that Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping to beat Real Madrid in the race to sign Villa, who is almost certain to be sold this summer by debt-laden Valencia.
Villa is one of the most coveted strikers in the world game and with Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid all chasing the 27-year-old it would be a major coup if Ferguson were successful in luring the Spanish international to Old Trafford.
Real Madrid are widely felt to be the favourites to land the player, but on Sunday Barcelona claimed to have held ''open talks'' with Valencia over Villa.
Barca's vice-president Rafael Yuste told Radio Catalunya: ''There are many players who are interested in coming to play at Barcelona and I think that people have to know this. The talks (over Villa) are absolutely open.''
Matching Valencia's valuation of Villa should not be a problem for United whose coffers are set to be swelled by the £80m deal struck last week with Real Madrid for the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo; some reports claim that Ferguson will be given a total transfer fund of £100m this summer to augment his squad.
However, it is thought Villa himself will make the final decision, although that is clouded by his current involvement in the Confederations Cup in South Africa with the Spanish national team.
He has previously indicated that Real Madrid would be his first choice if Valencia decide to sell.