Manchester United are favourites to sign Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara, according to The Sun. The 22-year-old starred in Spain's European U21 Championship title triumph, scoring a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Italy in the final.
United are believed to have been tracking Alcantara for several seasons now. It is believed they may have finally made their move, by offering to trigger the player's €18m release clause. The Premier League champions will be coached by outgoing Everton manager David Moyes next season and the Scot is a known admirer of Thiago's abilities.
The good news for the Old Trafford side is the young Spanish midfielder is reportedly unhappy at the Nou Camp and wants regular first team football, something United, with their lack of central midfield options, can provide.
However, Moyes will have to contend with interest from cross-town rivals Manchester City, Bundesliga and European champions Bayern Munich and also nine-time European champions Real Madrid; it remains to be seen if the Catalans agree to negotiate a transfer with their arch-rivals.
According to Spanish newspaper Marca, Thiago's release clause was set at €90m when he signed a contract in 2011. However, as the result of a lack of first team opportunities, that figure has dropped to a bargain amount, triggering interest from a number of top clubs across the continent.
In addition, Thiago's salary is estimated at €1.8m per year, which will not be a problem for either United or Madrid. Marca believes Munich could also have an inside track, given the close relationship between the player and the Bavarians' incoming boss, Pep Guardiola.
Meanwhile, United's pursuit of Thiago's team mate, Cesc Fabregas, appears to have come to a stop. The Premier League giants were strongly linked to the former Arsenal captain but the Spain international has now confirmed his desire to remain with his boyhood club.
"People talk a lot but the truth is that no-one has spoken with me. I want to triumph in Barcelona, that club is my home. So I will try and succeed there as long as I can," Fabregas told Movistar.
The 26-year-old is presently with his national team in Brazil, for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The reigning world and European champions beat Uruguay 2-1 in their opening game and face minnows Tahiti on Thursday.