Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay

Manchester United have suffered a massive boost in their battle to sign Ezequiel Garay after the Benfica centre-back refused to move to Zenit St Petersburg during the Russian winter transfer window.

Reports in Portugal claimed last week that Zenit were set to pay Garay's £17m buy-out clause to bolster their squad for the second part of the campaign, but he decided instead to stay at Benfica until the end of the season.

According to Portuguese newspaper A Bola, Zenit offered Garay the chance to double his salary to £4m per annum, but he turned down the proposal as Argentinian manager Alejandro Sabella advise him to stay in Portugal to keep playing regularly and increase his chances of making next summer's World Cup.

Nevertheless, Garay's contract with the Portuguese side expires in 2015 and he has already refused an extension to facilitate a summer exit.

United have been heavily linked with a move for the 27-year-old centre-back for some years and following Nemanja Vidic's announcement of his impending departure, they may renew their attempts to sign the Argentinian international in the summer – especially as Benfica will be forced to accept a cut-price deal to ensure they don't lose him for free the following summer.

Despite struggling during his two seasons at Real Madrid, Garay joined Benfica in summer 2011 for £8m and the Argentinian has been a pivotal player for the Portuguese since then, playing 115 games and scoring eight goals.

With Rio Ferdinand's future at Old Trafford also uncertain, United have recently been linked with a number of centre-backs including Porto star Eliaquim Mangala, former Manchester City defender Stefan Savic and Juventus's Martin Caceres.