The end may finally be in sight. After weeks, nay months, of speculation and shameless flirting and posturing, Eden Hazard will decide which of the Premier League's top clubs he will be soon be calling home, by June 2.
That is the word from the in-demand Belgian's agent, John Bico, who also claimed that deals have been agreed with Manchester United, as well as rivals City and Chelsea.
We are no longer in the negotiations stage, Bico said, according to the Telegraph. We have reached agreement with all parties. There will be no higher bid.
Eden has already said he wants it to be fixed before June 2. He will decide after the Red Devils' [Belgium] games against Montenegro and England, then go on holiday with peace of mind.
Chelsea, who emerged as late contenders in the race of the summer, now appear to be favorites following their Champions League win and willing to spend what it takes to lure the 21-year-old to Stamford Bridge.
Both United and City are said to be uneasy about Hazard's demands for £200,000-a-week in wages. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will surely also have reservations about the very public manner in which Hazard and his representatives have gone about deciding the attacking midfielder's future.
The Manchester Evening News reports that should United come up empty handed in their pursuit of Hazard, the club will switch their focus to Tottenham's Luka Modric. It has been widely reported that the 26-year-old will demand a move for the second-straight summer after Spurs' failure to qualify for the Champions League.
It seems unlikely, though that Ferguson would be viewing Hazard and Modric in an either or scenario. While Hazard has spent much of his season on the left of a front three and latterly as an orthodox No. 10, Modric has excelled in a deeper playmaking role.
One only has to look at the goalscoring records of both men this season--20 league goals for Hazard, four for Modric--to see the differing attributes the duo possess.
Far more likely is that if United do not get Hazard, the club will step-up their interest in Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international has had an outstanding season at the Westfalenstadion, helping the club to a domestic double with 17 goals and eight assists in all competitions.
Kagawa has admitted to meeting with Ferguson, and. as the 23-year-old has just a year on his contract remaining, a deal between the clubs should be attainable.
A much cheaper alternative to fill an attacking midfield berth at Old Trafford would be Rayo Vallecano's Michu. The Daily Mail reports that Manchester United scouts have been watching the 26-year-old, who could be available for the small price of £3 million this summer.
Michu has had an impressive season for the struggling La Liga side, scoring 15 goals to become the division's top-scoring midfielder. But, while Hazard and Kagawa bring goals along with creativity, Michu's passing ability is not on the same level of United's other targets.
Nicolas Gaitan is also said to be on United's list of targets. Indeed, the versatile Benfica attacking midfielder was widely reported to have agreed a deal to move to Old Trafford. Talk has gone quiet since, with United denying any interest, although reportedly Benfica's president sat next to United chief executive David Gill at the Champions League sparking renewed speculation on the rumor pages.
The Argentine's potential signing may not even be mutually exclusive of United's interest in their other attacking midfield targets, with Gaitan spending much of his time on the left of a 4-2-3-1.
Of course another consideration must still be the man Manchester United chased without reward for much of last summer, Wesley Sneijder. Former United forward Teddy Sheringham recently said that he expects Ferguson to go back in for the Dutch star, but, at this stage, that appears unlikely.
After a difficult season plagued by injuries and at times struggling to fit into Inter's various managers' systems, Sneijder's position in Milan is arguably more unsettled than a year ago. Especially so given their failure to qualify for the Champions League.
But if United were unwilling to stump up a hefty enough financial package last year, there is little chance of the Red Devils doing so this time around with the player turning 28 next month.
It is Shinji Kagawa who seems to fit the balance of ability and availability right now and his signing looks the likeliest as things stand. Though, with Wayne Rooney often drifting into the same positions as Kagawa would likely occupy at Old Trafford, it may be that the deeper lying Modric is in fact the better fit.