Sir Alex Ferguson is weighing up his options as Manchester United consider making a final offer for Brazilian playmaker Lucas Moura, after the Premier League giants saw their latest £29million bid knocked back by the player's current club Sao Paulo.
The 19-year-old creative midfielder is widely regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in South America, and United had hoped to agree a deal prior to the London Olympics, where Lucas is involved this summer.
Having already completed transfers to bring Japanese international Shinji Kagawa and Crewe Alexandra starlet Nick Powell to Old Trafford, Ferguson identified Moura as his next big-money signing.
But, the Red Devils boss has grown frustrated in his attempts to land him, and is cautious of being manipulated by the player's club, and agent Wagner Ribeiro, after seeing two bids rejected.
"Manchester United made an offer which was refused, and will not make another because they came up to their limit," claimed Lucas' representative on Tuesday. "There is no possibility of him leaving now."
However, in an interview with Radio Globo, Ribeiro intimated that his client could still become a Manchester United player, after Lucas told him to "keep negotiating" with potential suitors.
"The player is my boss, I always talk to him," he explained. "He determines what I do, my objectives. If he says that he doesn't want to leave Sao Paulo, I won't even listen to the offer. He told me to keep negotiating when I talked about Manchester United's interest.
"It's a great offer. If it was an [impossible to refuse] one, he would leave, but he is happy at Sao Paulo too. If he stays there, life goes on."
Whilst United still believe that a compromise can be reached, it is not in Ferguson's nature to allow a prospective target or third party for that matter, to dictate transfer negotiations, as the 70-year-old Scot confirmed when speaking for the first time about his interest in signing Lucas during the club's tour of China.
"We haven't reached an agreement for the player. We've shown an interest but until such time we reach an agreement we can't say he's ours.
"At this moment, we're looking at other options in terms of bringing other players in. We're not lying on our backsides doing nothing. We're trying hard to bring other players to the club."
Reports in today's press suggest that United could renew their interest in Fulham forward Moussa Dembele. The 25-year-old Belgian international has impressed in a number of roles at Craven Cottage, and would not command anywhere near the same fee as Moura.
United made an enquiry at the end of the season, but have not followed up their interest so far. If they were to lodge a formal bid, last season's Premier League runners-up could face competition for Dembele's signature from fellow admirers Chelsea and Arsenal.
Another player that Ferguson was heavily linked with throughout the 2011-12 campaign is Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan. Catching the eye in United's Champions League fixtures against the Portuguese outfit, the Argentine particularly impressed in the group stage clash at Old Trafford, and was rumoured to be a target in the January window.
Valued at around £20million, the 24-year-old is in United's price-range, with the club also believed to have considered a part-exchange deal involving Brazilian midfielder Anderson, a reported target for Benfica, to drive the price down.
Alternatively, United could attempt to lure 21-year-old Colombian international James Rodriguez from Porto. Ferguson is a long-term admirer of the tricky winger, having first scouted Rodriguez during his time with Envigado in his homeland, also monitoring his progress during a brief stint with Banfield in Argentina.
Playing out wide for the majority of his career to date, Rodriguez has the ability and versatility to be crafted into a central attacker, in a similar way to how Cristiano Ronaldo was moulded during his time at Old Trafford.
Despite recently stating he was happy in Portugal, the attacking midfielder, who netted 13 times for the Primeira Liga champions last season, is unlikely to snub the advances of United, if they were to make him an offer.
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