Real Madrid could be set to land David Beckham for a knock-down price.
Real are battling with Barcelona to sign the Manchester United midfielder, but Beckham is understood to have ruled out a move to Barca.
That would prompt an embarrassing climbdown for new Barca president Joan Laporta, who had hinged his election campaign on signing Beckham.
But Barcelona told this website on Monday they still believe they can charm Beckham into moving to the Nou Camp.
Regardless, his apparent reluctance has given Real Madrid the ammunition to move in with a bid far lower than the deal agreed between Barcelona and United.
Laporta had promised to pay around £30m for Beckham but Real are reported to be lining up a bid of as little as £18m.
United may now accept a cash price of about £22m, having publicly declared their intent to sell Beckham.
United chief executive Peter Kenyon and director David Gill met with Real Madrid representatives in
Sardinia over the weekend.
Real sporting director Jorge Valdano insists the club will not discuss Beckham until the Spanish season is completed.
Victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final Primera Liga game on Sunday would clinch the title Madrid.
Valdano also said he does not want an ugly battle with the Catalans over Beckham.
"My intention is not to be at war with Barcelona for the signing of the
English midfielder," Valdano stressed.
"I take this opportunity to congratulate Laporta for having won and we wish
him the best of luck in his role there."