Last updated : 10 May 2007 By Ed
By Jason Burt in the Indie

Manchester United have inquired about the availability of Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o - but have been put off by the £40m transfer fee they were quoted.

The approach was made last month by United's chief executive David Gill and although the newly crowned Premiership champions have not given up hope of landing the Cameroonian striker, they have made clear they will not pay what Barcelona want.

Any deal would be fraught with difficulties not least because Eto'o is unsure whether he really wants to leave Barça and come to the Premiership. An added complication is that the 26-year-old is understood to have recently sacked his long-standing lawyer, Jose Maria Mesalles, who also acts as his agent, and is himself conducting negotiations over his future.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has made an imposing striker a priority in the transfer market. The club has explored the possibility of signing Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham, and they are also eager to take advantage of the clause in Michael Owen's contract that means he can leave Newcastle United for just £9m - far less than the £16m it cost to take him to St James' Park two years ago.

Ferguson has been interested in Eto'o for some time and it would be a real coup if he could land the player especially as he was, last summer, Chelsea's main transfer target before they decided to sign Andrei Shevchenko. Eto'o has also interested Arsenal, who are desperate to acquire a leading striker, although manager Arsène Wenger is aware that he may not have the funds to compete.

Eto'o has missed four months of what has been a topsy-turvy season for Barça, although they still head La Liga, but has returned to score 10 goals in his last 14 appearances to confirm his return to fitness. United have also made clear that they are only interested in a cash deal and will not include Cristiano Ronaldo in any move.