Manchester United must pay £32million for Carlos Tevez - or they will lose him this season.
The world champions have been told they will not be able to renew the loan deal for the Argentina striker, who has spent the past two seasons at Old Trafford.
Tevez, 25, is allowed to play for United as his current move was completed before fresh Premier League rules were introduced last June.
Such loan arrangements, when a player is owned by a third party rather than a club, are now forbidden. In Tevez's case, he is owned by his agent Kia Joorabchian.
'He would not be eligible to play under the new rules on third-party ownership we introduced in June,' a Premier League spokesman told The Sun.
'But the rules are not applied retrospectively so he can play for United under his two-year loan arrangement from 2007.'
Tevez is expected to be signed by the highest bidder in the summer but he will be unable to play unless a club buys his registration.