Date: 18th June 2009 at 6:21pm
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If press reports are to be believed, our main transfer targets for this summer are the following players, in no particular order: Antonio Valencia, Franck Ribery, David Villa and Karim Benzema.

The problem is that we have to sign at least two of these players – or other players who have similar strengths – due to Ronaldo’s departure. And so far only Antonio Valencia’s arrival looks likely.

United are set to meet Wigan over the transfer of Valencia in the next few days and though Dave Whelan claims Madrid are still in the hunt it’s quite certain that it’s only an attempt to increase the fee. I’d say it’s 90% that he’ll end up at Old Trafford.

David Villa, however, has already made his decision and apparently his agent is working towards that. Villa made it clear on many occasions that he’d prefer to stay in Spain which means that he’s almost certain to have chosen Real Madrid who still could not agree a fee with Valencia CF. But they will, I’m sure, as Valencia are in desperate need of the money.

Franck Ribery is another Real Madrid target – but surely they can’t sign EVERYONE? – and Zinedine Zidane claims that talks are underway about taking him to the Bernabeu. Why would he go there is anyone’s guess, seeing that they are overloaded with superstars already but it is said to be his dream. Barcelona are also in the picture and they are also ahead of United in the race – and it would make much more sense for Ribery to join Barcelona than to join Madrid, that’s obvious. But United’s chances of landing him are very slim: 5%, at best, I’d estimate.

Then there’s Karim Benzema: Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas admitted that he couldn’t say Benzema was untransferable. But they do not wish to sell, Benzema is not desperate to leave and Aulas confirmed what we had known anyway: that Benzema’s preferred destination would be – guess who? – Real Madrid… 5%, again, as Benzema is prepared to wait a year for Madrid to make their move.

So it looks like that all our main transfer targets will be snapped up by Madrid or stay at their club. Unfortunately, these high-profile continenatal players have this inexplicable love for Real Madrid which is baffling: what is so flash about a club where football comes second to merchandising and marketing income and which never reached the quarter-final of the Champions League in the last five years?

As for United, we have to go down the usual ‘Fergie way’, it seems: we can go for established Premier League players (as we did in the case of Berbatov, Carrick and the likes) or relative unknowns from the continent who might turn out to be fantastic (Evra, Vidic, Anderson, Nani – the latter showing the dangers of this approach…). It is quite clear that we won’t be able to sign established stars to replace Cristiano Ronaldo: that is Real Madrid’s privilige, for some reason.