Manchester United made their first transfer move of the summer last night when they joined the pursuit of Marseilles’ talented midfielder Franck Ribéry.
United‘s chief executive, David Gill, is understood to have made a verbal offer of £9m for the 23-year-old in a telephone conversation with the Marseilles president, Pape Diouf, yesterday, although he may have to call back with the promise of an extra £3m before the French club entertain the idea of parting with their prized asset.
A late inclusion in the French World Cup squad, Ribéry is unsettled at Marseilles and anxious to leave following the recent departure of manager Jean Fernandez to Auxerre.
Ribéry is currently the subject of a bitter dispute between Marseilles and the French champions Lyon after the latter’s chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, was accused of tapping up the winger at an awards ceremony last week where he was named France’s Young Player of the Year.
“I’ve given them [United] the same answer as I gave to Lyon and, although United are stubborn and may try again, that is Ribéry is not available,” Diouf said to the Daily Mail.
The Marseilles president has claimed it would take an offer of €45m (£30.8m) for him to sell Ribéry, who is under contract until 2010, but with the player agitating for a move a more realistic price is £12m. United remain confident of landing the midfielder ahead of the World Cup.