Manchester City have pulled out of the race to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus, the PA news agency understands.
And that could open the door for the five-time world player of the year to make a shock return to former club Manchester United.
City, who missed out on signing Harry Kane from Tottenham, were offered Ronaldo after it became clear he wanted to leave Juventus but, after consideration, have decided the deal is not one they wish to pursue.
At 36, Ronaldo is not of the age profile of player the champions are wishing to recruit and nor do they feel he would fit into manager Pep Guardiola’s preferred style of play.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed that midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been talking to Ronaldo and that their former star “knows that we’re here”.
Juventus are reported to be seeking around £25million for Ronaldo.
Asked why Ronaldo had supposedly been heading to the Etihad instead of Old Trafford, Solskjaer said: “I didn’t think Cristiano was going to turn out leaving Juventus.
“It’s been speculation this morning, speculation the last few days, of course. We’ve always had a good communication – I know Bruno (Fernandes) has been talking to him as well. He knows what we feel about him and if he was ever going to move away from Juventus, he knows that we’re here.
“He’s such a tremendous human being as well, so let’s see what happens with Cristiano. Everyone who has played with him, I think, has a soft spot for him.”
Speaking at a press conference ahead of his side’s game with Arsenal on Satuday, City manager Pep Guardiola had been reluctant to be drawn on the possibility.
“I cannot say much,” Guardiola said. “Harry Kane announced he is continuing with his club, an exceptional club like Tottenham. Cristiano is a Juventus player, I cannot add anything else.
“In these three or four days left until the transfer window shuts anything can happen, but, in my view, there are few players – Cristiano Ronaldo included, (Lionel) Messi is another – they decide where they are going to play.
“I say the same, Cristiano will decide where he wants to play, not Man City or myself. Right now it seems far, far away.”
Ronaldo had earlier told Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri that he feels his future lies elsewhere.
“Yesterday, Cristiano told me that he no longer has any intention to play for Juventus. For this reason he will not be called up for tomorrow’s game,” Allegri said at a press conference ahead of the club’s Serie A match against Empoli in quotes posted on the official Juventus Twitter account.
“Cristiano is to be thanked for what he has done, also as an example amongst the youngsters. But as I said, we must go on.
“Things change, it’s a law of life. Juventus remains, which is the most important thing. Cristiano gave his contribution, he made himself available, now he leaves and life goes on.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp feels any club who signs Ronaldo will be doing so for short-term gain.
Klopp said: “It’s not about me to judge that, it’s just if other clubs can do things like this. It’s obviously not a business for the future, say in three or four years they have the benefit of that.
“It’s for now and immediately, if that happens. That’s how some clubs are obviously working and that’s absolutely fine. But there must be different ways.”