Ezequiel Garay
Benfica's Ezequiel Garay. Reuters

Russian big spenders Zenit St Petersburg are reportedly set to win the battle for Manchester United long-term target Ezequiel Garay by meeting his £17m release clause – taking advantage of the Russian transfer window open till the end of February.

United have been heavily linked with a move to sign the 27-year-old Argentinian international for some years and last month it was reported that David Moyes had earmarked him as Nemanja Vidic's replacement. The Serbian has already confirmed he will leave Old Trafford at the end of the season.

However, according to Portuguese newspaper A Bola, Garay is going to snub United by joining Zenit, who are ready to pay his £17m buy-out clause to secure his services before the Russian winter transfer window closes on February 27.

A Bola has reported Garay may play his last game for Benfica this weekend, in the big clash against Sporting Lisbon as then the Argentinian international will commit his future to Zenit on a contract which will allow him double his salary from £2m to £4m per annum.

The Argentinian has just one-and-a-half years remaining on his contract at Benfica and the Portuguese side are keen on recoup much more than the £8m they paid Real Madrid in 2011 for his services.

With Vidic's exit from Old Trafford now confirmed, David Moyes is desperately looking to bolster his squad with a permanent centre-back – especially considering that Rio Ferdinand's future is also up in the air and Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have all failed to impress the manager during his first year at the club.

If Garay finally completes a move to Zenit, the United boss will be left with two other alternatives after being recently linked with Porto's Eliaquim Mangala and the Real Sociedad youngster Íñigo Martinez.