Roma directors Mauro Baldissoni and Walter Sabatini are in London to find out if Premier League interest in defensive linchpin in Mehdi Benatia is concrete, after finally admitting defeat in their bid to persuade the Moroccan international his long-term future lies in Serie A.
Benatia's agent Moussa Sissoko held discussions with Roma chiefs over a new contract for his client earlier this week, but turned down a bumper pay rise worth €2 million per season plus €500,000 in bonuses to stay in the Eternal City.
Gazzetta dello Sport believe that after those talks broke down Baldissoni and Sabatini decided to use their trip to England to sound out Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger over a potential €28m deal, particularly with Bayern Munich still haggling over the 27-year-old's lofty asking price.
Sabatini in high demand
Roma have changed their stance over Benatia because they simply aren't willing to wait until transfer deadline day to find out if they need a new defensive linchpin to spearhead their Champions League push this season.
Baldissoni and Sabatini are in London primarily to try and tie down a suitable replacement for a man who helped Roma keep a quite incredible 20 clean sheets in Serie A last season, with Tottenham Hotspur stopper Vlad Chiriches and Manchester City youngster Matiha Nastasic on the shortlist.
Sabatini had dinner with his Spurs counterpart Franco Baldini earlier this week and Roma are ready to step up their interest in the Romanian, providing that they can fetch the fee they want for Benatia.
Towering centre-back in huge demand
Roma want a deal worth an absolute minimum of €28m for Benatia, plus a further €2m in bonuses based on further appearance clauses.
Bayern remain in pole position to sign much-needed emergency defensive cover after losing the versatile Javi Martinez to a long-term knee injury, although their reluctance to pay a premium for Benatia means Man United or perhaps more surprisingly Arsenal still have time to pull off a major transfer coup.
Man United's need looks far greater though, particularly when you consider their defensive deficiencies in last weekend's 2-1 Premier League defeat to Swansea City at Old Trafford.
Benatia is one of the few proven central defenders available who could come straight in and improve United considerably overnight, so Red Devils fans will be desperate for Van Gaal and co. to take that meeting with Sabatini and agree a deal as a matter of urgency.
Roma want Benatia's future sorted once and for all in the next 2-3 days, so expect this long-running transfer saga to finally end by the beginning of next week at the latest
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