Barcelona have confirmed they have entered negotiations with Udinese for Alexis Sanchez.
Manchester rivals United and City have been battling to try and secure the highly-rated winger's signature, with Old Trafford chief executive David Gill believed to have held talks with Gino Pozzo, the son of Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzo, at his Barcelona home on Tuesday.
The Spanish and European champions have been linked with the 22-year-old Chile star for some time and vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu is hopeful a deal will be reached.
'We are optimistic, but this has just begun. We are negotiating for Sanchez,' he told Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
'We know he is a valuable player; that is why there are so many teams after him. We have to continue talking and we will see what is going to happen in the next few days.'
Sanchez, who is also a target for Italian giants Inter Milan, is thought to prefer a move to the Nou Camp over both Manchester clubs. But Bartomeu insists the player's club hold the key to his arrival in Barcelona.
'We will first have to come to an agreement with Udinese,' he said.
Sanchez's agent Fernando Felicevich confirmed that other clubs were meeting Pozzo after his talkswith City on Monday.
Battle of Manchester: United and City are going head-to-head to try and sign Sanchez (right)
Vital statisticsName: Alexis SanchezBorn: December 19, 1988Birthplace: Tocopilla, ChileHeight: 5ft 6in
36 Caps for Chile53 Total career goals for club and country
2 Chilean league titles with Colo-Colo in 2006 and 20072 trophies with Argentinian side River Plate in 2008 league and cup3rd place in FIFA U20 World Cup in 2007
Felicevich said: 'Sanchez's future is still wide open. After meetings with City, we will have new appointments.'
Sources in Italy insist City are still favourites to sign Sanchez, and that Roberto Mancini is confident of landing his No 1 summer target.
Should Sanchez join the European champions, the transfer could have ramifications for Barca's long-standing chase for Cesc Fabregas.
Although Fabregas has said he will not demand a move away from Arsenal, he is again a top target for his hometown club. Spanish media have reported that the Catalans would have to pay around ?35million to secure Fabregas's services for next season.
And with Barca armed only with a limited transfer budget of around ?40m this summer, any move for Sanchez could put an end to their quest to sign Fabregas, for now at least.
Mr Popular: Sanchez (centre) is also wanted by Italian giants Inter Milan and European champions Barcelona
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?Explore more:People: Roberto Mancini, David Gill Places: Barcelona, Manchester, Chile, Italy
Source: Daily Mail
Source: Daily Mail