Manchester United are in prime position to sign Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao this summer, according to Spanish publication Marca.
Falcao’s future has been the source of almost constant speculation since last summer, although it had been widely believed that Chelsea were front runners for his signature. Real Madrid and Manchester City have also been linked to the 27-year-old, which makes the report that United are in negotiations for his signature something of a surprise.
Marca also cites sources close to both United and Falcao, which suggest that a down payment may already have been paid on a deal to take the Colombia international to Old Trafford.
If true, the deal would surely smash United’s record transfer fee paid of £30.75m for Dimitar Berbatov in 2008. It is said that Falcao could well cost in excess of €50 million (£42.7m), but any fee will not match his €60 million (£51.25m) buyout clause.
The speculation has been dismissed by Atletico coach Diego Simeone, however.
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"The same thing happened at the same stage of the season last year,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “It's not news.
"Falcao is a great player and it's logical that the best teams in the world are interested in him. It doesn't surprise me."
Falcao joined Atletico after firing Porto to Europa League glory in 2011 and subsequently helped the Spanish side lift the same trophy last season. This campaign he has continued his prolific scoring with 22 goals in La Liga to increase his demand around Europe.
A move to United would still appear an outside bet at this stage, however. Not only does the club currently have four established strikers on their books, but they are also reportedly keen to add Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski.
The Poland international has said that he won’t be extending his contract at the Bundesliga side beyond 2014 and Dortmund look set to cash in on him this summer.
Lewandowski, who was pursued by United last summer, would cost considerably less than Falcao and also has the advantage of, at 24 years old, being significantly younger.
Still, reports linking Falcao to Manchester United are only likely to fuel speculation about the future of Wayne Rooney.
The forward has been linked with a departure from Old Trafford ever since he was left out of the United side that took on Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League tie last month. Big-spending Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain are believed to be keen to sign the 27-year-old England international.