Manchester United are now the overwhelming favourites to sign Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado after Barcelona were priced out of the race to sign the Colombia international.
The Express cite reports in Italy as claiming the La Liga giants have now ended their pursuit of the £32 million-rated star after they failed to convince Fiorentina to reduce their asking price.
Boost for Man United
It had been reported earlier this week that Cuadrado was holding out for a dream move to Barcelona, even though other sources claimed the player was happy to join Manchester United and had even agreed personal terms with the Premier League outfit.
Cuadrado was believed to have told friends that he wanted to team up with Lionel Messi, Neymar and co. at the Camp Nou - and made a formal request to his current employers to consider Barcelona’s offer.
But the winger’s demands appear to have fallen on deaf ears, with Fiorentina determined to get the best possible price for one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Cuadrado scored one goal and provided four assists to help inspire Colombia to a quarter-final finish at the showpiece international tournament.
Van Gaal wants Cuadrado to replace Rafael
Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique had identified Cuadrado as the perfect replacement for Dani Alves - and United boss Louis van Gaal appears to have the same idea with Rafael.
According to the Daily Mail, the Brazilian right-back was one of seven players informed by Van Gaal last Saturday to find a new club before the summer transfer window closes on September 1.
Cuadrado possesses all of the required attributes to play as a right wing-back - despite having played all of his career in a more advanced position - thanks to his boundless energy and indefatigable work ethic.
Watch: Juan Cuadrado in action
But although Barcelona are off the scene, Manchester United must still fend off competition from Premier League rivals Chelsea, whose manager Jose Mourinho is considering the South American as an attacking option for his system at Stamford Bridge.
The potential departure of Germany international Andre Schurrle could prompt Mourinho to step up his interest in Cuadrado. But for the time being it seems Manchester United are in pole position to land the in-demand winger’s signature.