Paulo Henrique Ganso
Santos midfielder Ganso.

Tottenham Hotspur have emerged as Manchester United's chief rivals in the pursuit of coveted Brazil international Ganso, according to reports in Friday's press.

Spurs are set to open talks with the highly-rated Santos playmaker, after the club indicated its willingness to negotiate for a fee believed to be in the region of £15m.

The Telegraph reports that Ganso's representatives arrived in London yesterday to discuss the future of the player who has been heavily linked with a move to Tottenham and Manchester United in recent weeks.

Santos president Luis Oliveira revealed Wednesday that Ganso will be sold in January if "the offer matches our expectations". However, the situation is believed to be complicated by the fact that 55 per cent of Ganso's contract rights are currently held by an investment group, DIS - the Telegraph reports.

A number of top European clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham, have been linked with the 22-year-old after he impressed during the recent FIFA World Club Cup in Japan.

Santos' heavy loss to Barcelona in the final undermined an impressive year for the midfielder, who has already earned seven full Brazil caps and is already considered an automatic choice for the national side.

An imposing, stylish No.10, Ganso has already garnered comparisons to France legend Zinedine Zidane for his improvisational approach play and goal scoring prowess.

Spurs already appear to have a surfeit of quality in midfield, with creative players such as Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart having pledged their long-term futures to the club.

However Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has expressed concern over the club's ability to cope with a hectic second half of the season and it may be that Redknapp has identified Ganso as a player to keep as cover in the short-term, with one eye on the club's long-term future.

Although Tottenham's enquiries are believed to be preliminary - with both parties seeking to sound out the other's intentions - Manchester United will likely keep one eye on today's developments, having been repeatedly linked with the player since the summer.

United are on the lookout for midfield creativity, with no return dates set for long-term absentees Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher, and numerous pundits have suggested the club need to buy in January to keep their title bid alive.

And while Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has continually insisted that the club will not make any moves this month, Tottenham's approach and recent comments by Santos chief Oliveira might tempt Ferguson to reconsider his stance.

"If the player wants to leave, we will have to listen to offers. But as of today, no offer for him has yet arrived," Oliveira said earlier this week.

"The desire of the player is most important. If Ganso wants to leave Santos and our interested are preserved, we can negotiate."

Nevertheless, Ferguson is likely to view Tottenham's approach as the precursor to a summer fight for the player.

The Manchester United boss remains adamant that, while he does have a few targets in mind for this transfer window, he does not believe any of them will be available as January is a difficult month for getting food prices for top players.

"It is easy to say you are going to buy players but it is not easy to buy them for Manchester United, especially in January," Ferguson said at the end of November.

"I do not see anyone who could make us a better team. There are two or three players but they are not available, so there is not point even going there."