United wary of Brazilians


Two Brazilian stars occupied Manchester United thoughts yesterday when Rivaldo claimed United had made an £18 million bid for him and Inter Milan said Ronaldo was extremely doubtful for the Champions League quarter-final between the clubs at Old Trafford next Wednesday.

Rivaldo insisted an offer had been made by United but said he was "very happy" at Barcelona. He said: "I am doing very well here," and also pointed out that the buyout clause in his contract with the Spanish champions was prohibitive.

United have denied the claim but Rivaldo's agent Josep Maria Minguella also confirmed details of an offer.

If United want to sign the player they would have to fork out an incredible £66 million to release the Brazilian midfielder from his current contract unless the two clubs could reach an agreement.

Rivaldo was one of the revelations of the World Cup and has also starred in recent weeks as Barcelona stormed to the top of Spain's Primera Liga. A United spokesman denied the claim, saying: "It's rubbish - it's not true."

Although Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti claims that Ronaldo is almost certain to miss next Wednesday's first-leg clash,

United are wary of being duped by Inter in the battle of minds and Alex Ferguson said he was ignoring the reports from Italy. "The only thing we're doing is preparing ourselves to play well in a tough match against formidable opposition," Ferguson said. "We'll continue to do that with or without Ronaldo in their ranks. It won't change our outlook on the game at all."

Moratti claims Ronaldo has not completely recovered from tendonitis of the knee, which has been plaguing him since the beginning of the season.

He said: "His condition has improved, but it is practically ruled out that we will see him in the Champions' League. He will only play when he has completely recovered."

Ronaldo (22) has reportedly been refusing to play for Inter because of the pain in his knee and he sat in the stands for last Sunday's Serie A game with Lazio even though he had been passed fit. United assistant manager Steve McClaren was in Rome last Sunday to see Inter's current poor form first-hand.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have denied claims in Italy that Michael Owen could one day become a Lazio player. Italian sources suggested Owen had confirmed he had reached an agreement with Lazio that if ever he decided to leave Anfield the Rome club would be the first he would hold talks with.

Liverpool spokesman Ian Cotton said: "Michael has assured us that he has not made any agreement with any club to talk to them now or in the future."