LONDON - Manchester United have lodged an opening bid of £35 million (S$74 million) to sign Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, after the World Cup winner told the Spanish La Liga giants that he wants to leave.
United's written offer came after Ramos, 29, met Real chief executive Jose Angel Sanchez at the club's Valdebebas training ground to request that the club open negotiations with United.
Real are believed to have agreed to entertain bids for Ramos, who has a buyout clause of £128 million.
United manager Louis van Gaal has made signing a top-class central defender his priority this summer, and has been linked with a move for Dortmund's German international Mats Hummels for several months.
Neither the player nor Real have made any public statement but, privately, their positions are now clear. Ramos arrived at the Valdebebas training ground a little before 10am and departed without talking to the media. The previous day, he had visited his lawyer in central Madrid.
Real's willingness to entertain offers does represent some movement, and suggests that they would not mind selling if the conditions are right, while the strained relationship between the player and club president Florentino Perez makes brokering a lasting peace difficult.
Real are already looking at possible replacements for the defender, including two players United have in the past targeted: Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte and Valencia's Nicolas Otamendi.
Earlier, Pedro Riesco, who works alongside the player's brother and agent Rene, suggested Ramos' departure was almost inevitable. He told Radio Marca: "With everything that has happened, it will be very difficult for Sergio Ramos to stay at Madrid."
United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, 24, is also a factor in any negotiations, with the English Premier League side able to use Real's interest as leverage. A swift resolution appears unlikely but it is clear the defender is prepared to leave after playing more than 400 games for the club.
Despite United informing them of their interest in Ramos and reports in Spain of them making an offer, Madrid have claimed not to have received any bids.
United had informed Real of their desire to sign Ramos in a meeting at which the Spanish club had hoped to make progress on an agreement to sign de Gea.
Neither Ramos nor Real backed down on Wednesday on a potential contract renewal at the Bernabeu. Real have made no move towards reconciliation or a renewed offer for Ramos to extend his current £4.3 million a year deal, which expires in 2017.
Nor did Ramos say that he was prepared to reopen negotiations which have been at a stalemate for some months now.
Real made an improved offer to take the vice-captain's salary to around £6 million but Ramos wanted closer to £8 million, according to reports in Spain.
Unless there are significant changes in the positions of both player and club, this issue appears to have moved beyond a simple battle over a new contract.
This has become a battle played out through the press. Sports daily AS, which is critical of Perez, reported Ramos had made up his mind he wanted to leave. On the other side of the divide, the newspaper La Razon, which is close to Perez, demanded that he "respect the badge".
Ramos has been accused of being a money-grabber by the pro-Perez press, which has only deepened the sense of mutual distrust.