Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has spent a decade at Real Madrid since signing from Sevilla. Getty Images

Much of the speculation surrounding Manchester United in recent days has centered on manager Louis van Gaal’s apparent suggestion that a “surprise” forward signing was in the works. However, it is possible movement in the transfer saga involving David de Gea and Sergio Ramos that has now taken center stage.

United and Real Madrid had seemingly reached an impasse in negotiations, with the Premier League giants unwilling to countenance the sale of goalkeeper De Gea unless Madrid allowed unsettled defender Sergio Ramos to move in the opposite direction. With Ramos taking over as captain at the Bernabeu following the departure of Iker Casillas and De Gea preparing for the new season with his current club in the United States, it appeared the saga could drag on interminably.

Yet, speaking ahead of Manchester United’s 3-1 preseason friendly win over the San Jose Earthquakes, Van Gaal hinted that there could still be a breakthrough in their attempts to lure Ramos to Old Trafford.

“I cannot talk about these rumors,” he said. “I have said already in a lot of press conferences, it's a process and maybe Mr. Ramos is in the process, you never know.”

And reports in Spain suggest the situation is heating up. According to respected publication El Pais, Real Madrid have come to the conclusion that the signing of De Gea is essential following the heated reaction from fans to dispensing with Casillas, and with neither his replacement Kiko Casilla nor last year’s backup Keylor Navas deemed up to the top job. The belief is that the only way to achieve that goal is to grant Ramos his wish to leave.

El Pais along with fellow outlet AS claim that United have made a fresh bid for Ramos this week, with the latter putting the figure at € 60 million (£ 42 million) and stating that personal terms have already been agreed with the World Cup winner. AS is less conclusive in its analysis of the situation, however, instead reporting that Madrid president Florentino Perez will hold a meeting with Ramos when the team arrives in China this weekend.

While the reported fee would be an extraordinary amount for a 29-year-old, it would also be reflective of the lack of top-level center-backs currently available. Were United not ultimately able to procure Ramos, they would still be looking at paying € 50 million (£ 35 million) to satisfy Valencia’s valuation of 27-year-old Nicolas Otamendi.

Van Gaal has previously stated that he was still looking to strengthen two positions in his Manchester United squad, meaning a defensive arrival is unlikely to mark an end to the club’s significant summer transfer business. It may also suggest that Van Gaal’s latest comments about signing a forward, made following the win over San Jose, may simply be a smokescreen.

"I don't know if I want to buy a striker,” he said. I have read in the media that the striker is the surprise. No, that's not what I said. But you are saying that. No, I mean something else.”

Since Van Gaal’s initial comments about the possibility of signing a “surprise” forward, speculation has mounted that Thomas Müller is being eagerly pursued. A versatile and intelligent player who can play all along the frontline, Müller was given his breakthrough into the Bayern Munich first team during Van Gaal’s spell in charge six years ago. His status at the club is rumored to be less secure as Pep Guardiola seeks to put more of his own stamp onto the team. That process has already seen club legend Bastian Schweinsteiger allowed to leave for Old Trafford last week.

Marca reports that negotiations with Manchester United are now at an advanced stage, with a deal even possible to be completed this week. The two clubs will face off in California on Saturday.

While lacking the individual quality of the world’s top attacking stars, Pedro has shown himself to be an exceptional role player within a fluid, passing team, something that will appeal to Van Gaal, who makes strict requirements of his players.