Manchester United have seized the initiative in the fiercely-competitive race to sign Bayern Munich star David Alaba.
Alaba, 28, is out of contract next summer and has failed to agree to a new deal with Bayern, with the player’s salary demands driving a wedge between him and the club.
The Austrian defender is also a target for Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, while Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have long been linked swoops of their own.
But United are hopeful they can beat the host of rival suitors to sign Alaba on a pre-contract in the January transfer window.
Red Devils chiefs have spoken to Alaba’s agent, Pini Zahavi, as they strive to thrash out terms ahead of a potential arrival at Old Trafford next summer.
January is expected to be a busy month for the two-time Champions League winner, as clubs will be able to enter talks with him.
Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is resigned to his player leaving after prolonged negotiations bore no fruit.
“Bayern did everything we could to try and reach an agreement,” said Rummenigge. “We had a lot of conversations, but we wanted answers from him by the end of October.
‘This didn’t happen and I don’t know if we’ll return to the negotiations. What I want to be clear about is that our offer showed exactly how much we value him, but he didn’t accept it.”
Manchester United hope to beat rival clubs to Alaba’s signature by offering him the lucrative contract Bayern would not.
The player reportedly sought improved terms that would bring him level with Robert Lewandowski’s €12million-per-year (£11million-per-year) deal.
But competition for Alaba will be intense and Real are believed to be frontrunners in the pursuit. Nonetheless, Rummenigge added: “I don’t know anything about the Real Madrid rumours. He’s free to speak to whoever he wants from January 1.”