Long-term Manchester United target Ezequiel Garay has signed for Zenit St Petersburg for just €15m, Benfica have announced.
Reporting on the club's official website, Benfica confirmed Garay will move to the Russian side, managed by former-Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas.
United have been heavily linked with Garay, currently with the Argentina squad in Brazil for the World Cup, since Sir Alex Ferguson's reign. David Moyes reportedly pulled the plug on the deal last summer, but they were again linked with him following the appointment of Louis Van Gaal.
During his time at Benfica, Garay won two League Cups, the league championship and made two appearances in the Europa League final, losing to Chelsea and Sevilla in back-to-back seasons.
He told Benfica's official website: "I want to thank everyone who supported me in these three magnificent years I spent at Benfica, in particular the president, who believed and invested in me, and the coach who made me evolve and reach a level that I am proud of.
"I also want to thank my colleagues with whom I had the honour to play at the club. I also want to thank the supporters for all the love they gave him. This is the time. I could not wait any longer but I carry all the times I've enjoyed in Portugal in my heart. Thank you."
Third party arrangements
A Benfica communication confirmed the club received €6m for the central defender, but the actual total was closer to €15m on account on Garay's complicated third party ownership.
Benfica's €6m was their 40 per cent cut and reports claim they have re-worked Zenit's debt on the Axel Witsel transfer as part of the Garay deal, while Real Madrid owned 50 per cent of his rights from his original transfer and another third party group owned the last 10 per cent. In total, Zenit paid the various parties €15m for the rights to Garay.
Manchester United defensive situation
Several reports linked United with Garay in the wake of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic's confirmed departures. Vidic has left United on a free transfer for Inter Milan while Ferdinand is currently a free agent and heavily linked with newly promoted Queens Park Rangers.
While Garay was not the only centre-back linked with United, he was one of the least expensive. Other potential options include France's Eliaquim Mangala and Atletico Madrid's Miranda.
Having let Garay slip through the net, new United boss Louis Van Gaal may instead be focussing on recruiting one of his Dutch internationals, namely Feyenoord's Bruno Martins Indi.
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