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United target Sergio Ramos coming under fire from Real Madrid backlash

By Ian Herbert

Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos has been hit by an angry backlash following the state of open warfare he has provoked with his club, which could enhance Manchester United's chances of signing him.

A source close to the top of the Spanish club yesterday indicated that the long-serving defender's professed willingness to move to United seemed like a bluff designed to secure the player the £140,000-a-year contract he wants at the Bernabeu.

United are certainly wary of not being played by the 29-year-old, who they want as part of an exchange deal for goalkeeper David de Gea.

But Ramos risks pushing himself to a point of no return with Real, in the latest of what has been a series of choreographed rows with the club in recent years. Newspaper La Racon, which is close to the Real President, Florentino Perez, published a front-page image of Ramos on its sports pull-out yesterday with the words "Respetar la Insignia" ("Respect the badge"), and a strongly worded editorial declaring that he is failing to do so.

There is always a prospect that stand-offs such as this will end up with a new, improved deal being offered - as was the case with Barcelona's Dani Alves recently. But there is currently no sense from Real that they want to keep the player.

From Perez's perspective, Atletico Madrid's Nicolas Otamendi could be a good replacement for Ramos at half the price. Ramos finds himself in a state of open dispute with the club from which there may be no going back.

As of yesterday, United have received no formal bid for De Gea, though there has been contact from Real, during which a low offer in the region of £12m is thought to have been mentioned. Ramos has a £143m buyout clause, though that is immaterial to Real's actual valuation of him, which is thought to be around £46.5m.

As United continue to push for Ramos, striker Robin van Persie is understood to believe that his career and settled family life in England are worth fighting for at the club. Manager Louis van Gaal has indicated to him that he has to be able to demonstrate greater intensity in training.

Van Gaal has the same concerns about Van Persie that he did with an ageing Mark van Bommel when managing Bayern Munich. He always sets huge store by players being able to deliver maximum effort in his intensive training sessions.

Van Gaal told Van Bommel that he should move to Italy because the pace of the game was slower. But with few clubs likely to be able to match Van Persie's wages, the forward seems to want to stay and fight.

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