By Greg Stobart
Manchester United have cooled their interest in Dinamo Zagreb sensation Mateo Kovacic after baulking at the midfielder’s £10 million price tag.
Tottenham and Manchester City are now leading the race to sign the playmaker in the summer despite United manager Sir Alex Ferguson personally identifying the 17-year-old as a star of the future.
Goal.com understands United considered a move for Kovacic this month but executives will not sanction a £10m bid for an unproven youngster, even though Sir Alex is keen on the player.
The Old Trafford club could yet return with an offer in the summer but the player hailed as 'the new Luka Modric' looks set to miss out on his dream move.
“Sir Alex has had scouts watching Kovacic regularly and really likes him, but it now seems they won't pay the money to make an acceptable bid,” a source said.
United’s apparent refusal to pay the asking price for Kovacic raises questions over the finances available at the club for new signings. United revealed debts of £433m in their last accounts and supporters have expressed concerns that the owners, the Glazer family, will not back Ferguson in the transfer market.
Paul Scholes, 37, came out of retirement earlier this month to cover a desperate need for midfield reinforcements after United were unable to complete moves last summer for Wesley Sneijder, Samir Nasri and Modric.
While the club are expected to back Ferguson in his pursuit of Tottenham star Modric in the summer, there remain doubts - even within the club - about how much cash will be available as United look to compete with local rivals Manchester City.
Representatives of Kovacic including his agent, Marcel Kacinari, held positive discussions with City officials last month as the Premier League leaders looked to steal a march in their pursuit of one of the hottest properties in Europe.
The Croatia under-21 international is being tracked by a number of leading clubs including Arsenal, Juventus and Bayern Munich. City and Tottenham, however, appear to be leading the race after Dinamo director of sport Zoran Mamic claimed this week that ‘they want to buy him right now’.
Kovacic, a stylish playmaker often compared to compatriot Modric, is keen on a move to the Premier League but insists he is in no rush to leave Croatia.
"I'm still young and in no hurry," Kovacic told Croatian newspaper 24sata this week.
"I believe that it would be good for me if I would stay at Dinamo for one more year and then go out from Croatia."
Kovacic has been tipped as a future star since breaking into the Dinamo team in 2010 is already first-team regular. He became the club's youngest debutant and goalscorer when he found the net in the 6-0 win over Hrvatski Dragovoljac in November 2010.
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