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Zenit up the ante in attempt to sign £8m Manchester United centre back target

Benfica centre back Ezequiel Garay has been linked with a move away from the Estadio da Luz.

According to Portuguese paper A bola, Benfica’s star centre back Ezequiel Garay has been offered huge financial incentives to join Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg.

The same paper two days ago confessed that Garay is a top target for Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti and that the Argentine had already rejected a deal worth €2m a year - with a €2.5m signing on bonus.

Garay was reported to have a €20m release clause in his contract, yet this now appears to have been invalidated – a move which will hurt Benfica. The Portuguese side already have a 50% sell-on clause agreed with Real Madrid therefore they are unlikely to recuperate a hefty sum.

Zenit Saint Petersburg already boast some of the world’s most popular figures, including Andrey Arshavin and duo Hulk and Alex Witsel who both move to Russian from Portugal’s top league. Regarding Garay, Zenit are said to be willing to up their salary offer to €5m a year – a huge increase on his current earnings.

The Russian champions are still eligible to buy players as the Russian transfer window is still open, however it is reported that after consulting with his wife the Argentine defender isn’t keen on a move – despite the healthy salary.

The issue which Garay faces is that Benfica are suffering from a financial crisis. The 27-year-old’s teammates Rodrigo and Andre Gomes have already been sold to a third party for €30m – a deal to release bank pressure.

Should Garay make the move to Russia, it will cause disappointment in Manchester as David Moyes has tracked the defender for a while and sees him as a replacement for the departing Rio Ferdinand.

During the transfer window, the Portuguese press hinted that Garay could be making a move to Old Trafford this winter in an £8m deal, however a deal never materialised despite reports of an agreement between the clubs.

The Russian transfer window shuts on the 27th of February, so Zenit still have time to pull off a deal. However, should the Argentine opt against a move now, then Manchester United will certainly head the queue for the coveted defender this summer.

image: © Crystian Cruz

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