Real Madrid are expected to press ahead with plans to sign Gabriel Heinze, the Manchester United defender, after Fenerbahçe announced yesterday that Roberto Carlos will join them in the summer. The Spanish club are thought to have identified Heinze as a replacement for the 34-year-old former Brazil full back, who has agreed to move to Turkey once his contract at the Bernabéu expires at the end of the season.
Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, from whom United bought Heinze for £6.9 million in June 2004, are also understood to be in the hunt for the Argentina defender, who could buy out the remaining two years of his contract at Old Trafford after coming to accept that he no longer figures prominently in Sir Alex Ferguson's plans.
Heinze, 29, has fallen below Patrice Evra in the pecking order at left back and, after some poor displays for United last season, most notably in the Champions League semi-final, second leg away to AC Milan when his lack of pace was brutally exposed, Ferguson has resolved to sell him.
Real may decide to move quickly to beat off the competition, but Heinze appears to be in no rush to leave and has said that he will not make a decision on his future until after the Copa America finishes in Venezuela on July 15.
United will be entitled to about £6 million in compensation if Heinze chooses to invoke a clause in Fifa's new transfer regulations allowing him to buy out his contract, although he would not be able to join another club in England if he did so. Under the Fifa law, a contract ceases to be "protected" after a period of three years if the player was under 28 when he signed.
A player could then "buy out" the contract, provided that 15 days' notice is given and that a compensation fee - in effect the value of the remaining contract - is paid to the club owning his registration.