Casemiro is closing in on a big-money move to Manchester United, with Carlo Ancelotti confirming the experienced midfielder wants to leave Real Madrid for a “new challenge”.
Erik ten Hag’s side have been looking to reinforce their midfield all summer and the PA news agency understands a deal worth an initial 60million euros (£50.7m) is close for the Brazil international.
The fee for Casemiro could rise to 70m euros (£59.2m) if clauses are met, with a four-year deal plus the option of a further season on the table.
Ten Hag said he “cannot tell anything” when asked about the Brazil international in United’s press conference on Friday, but Madrid boss Ancelotti was more forthcoming when speaking to the media in Spain.
“I’ve discussed it with him this morning,” the Italian said. “He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity.
“The club understand it. With all he’s done for this club and the person he is, we have to respect it.
“There are talks right now, he’s still a Real Madrid player at this stage, but he wants to leave. If he goes, we have the resources to replace him.
“I haven’t tried to convince him, I just listened, because I have spoken to Casemiro throughout my time here and he has helped us so much. Having heard what he wants, there’s no way back.
“If he doesn’t stay, we’ll have an enormous sense of gratitude to him for all he’s done. We have replacements within the squad.
“(Aurelien) Tchouameni was signed for this position and he’s one of the best central midfielders on the market right now, then we’ve got (Toni) Kroos, who can play in that position too, just like he did in my second year here, and there’s (Eduardo) Camavinga as well”.
Casemiro – a former team-mate of Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane in Spain – is a five-time Champions League winner with Madrid, who he joined from Sao Paulo in his homeland in 2013.
More irons are in the fire as United look to kickstart their ailing campaign at a time of intense pressure on the Glazer family.
Protests are planned against the owners before and during Monday’s clash with rivals Liverpool and Sir Jim Ratcliffe has publicly declared his interest in buying the club.
Asked about the protests against the Glazer family, United boss Ten Hag said: “I can only say the owners want to win and the fans we want them behind the club.
“I can understand sometimes but I am not that long in the club that I can see all the backgrounds, but we have to fight together so we have to be unified and fight together.”
United start the week bottom of the Premier League after their 2-1 home defeat to Brighton was compounded by last weekend’s 4-0 humbling at Brentford.
“I think I made myself clear I was definitely not happy,” Ten Hag said.
“In football you can talk about football, you can talk about the plan out of philosophy but the basic stuff has to be good.
“That starts with the right attitude, so you need a fighting spirit on the pitch and I didn’t see that from minute one. I think it’s basic. You have to bring it in every game on the pitch and of course especially Monday night.”
Anthony Martial has returned to training ahead of a game but his availability is unclear after injury, increasing the chances of Ronaldo starting again.
There is unrelenting speculation about the wantaway star’s future but Ten Hag is still counting on the 37-year-old for the season ahead.
“I don’t know why he’s particularly in focus after Saturday,” he said.
“It was the team performance and the whole team’s attitude, including Ronaldo.”
Pushed on if he could guarantee Ronaldo will still be at United on September 2, Ten Hag added: “He’s in our plans, so that’s what I can say.”