Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay Reuters

Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg have reportedly won the race to sign Ezequiel Garay despite reports last week suggesting that Manchester United were close to agreeing a deal for the Benfica defender.

United have been heavily linked with a move to sign the 27-year-old centre-back for some years and it was reported that David Moyes had earmarked him as Nemanja Vidic's replacement with the Serbian defender likely to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season.

However, the Red Devils, who already failed to sign Garay last summer, could miss out the signing the Benfica star again as Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias report that the Argentinian defender is on his way to Zenit in a £35m double deal that also involves former Bolton striker Rodrigo.

Reports claim that Benfica's troublesome ecomomic situation will force them to sell Garay to recoup the £8m that they paid Real Madrid in the summer of 2011 to secure his services. – especially given that the Argentinian has just one and a half years remaining on his contract and is reluctant to consider an extension.

Garay, who struggled during his time at Real Madrid, has gone onto become one of the finest centre-backs in the world at Benfica where he scored the second goal in his club's 2-0 victory over rivals Porto on Sunday.

With the futures of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand up in the air with their contracts expiring at the end of the season David Moyes is desperately looking for a centre-back to add to his squad. Garay has become Manchester United's main target but in recent weeks they have also been linked with Porto's Eliaquim Mangala and the Real Sociedad youngster Íñigo Martinez.