The new Ronaldo? United seal 16m Antonio Valencia deal... now for Karim
Manchester United hoped they had signed Cristiano Ronaldo's replacement with a £16million deal for Wigan's Luis Antonio Valencia. And they are ready to splash out again by pressing ahead with a bid for Lyon's France striker Karim Benzema. The Barclays Premier League champions dipped into the £80m they are due from Real Madrid for Ronaldo by signing the exciting Ecuador winger in a straight cash deal. The 23-year-old returned from holiday at the weekend and had a medical yesterday before agreeing a four-year deal worth £55,000 a week at United's Carrington training complex. United arranged in January a prospective £20m deal with Wigan manager Steve Bruce, who wanted Fraizer Campbell in part-exchange. But interest from Real Madrid, Bruce's departure and a dip in Valencia's form changed the dimensions of the deal, and Wigan have done well to get £16m. United sealed it with other targets drifting out of reach, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson will hope to follow it up with a £38m deal for Benzema. Real have made an inquiry for the Frenchman after failing to land David Villa from Valencia, and will offer £25m plus players. Lyon, however, are well advanced with negotiations for Porto striker Lisandro Lopez and Toulouse forward Andre-Pierre Gignac, while team-mate Miralem Pjanic admitted yesterday he is convinced Benzema is heading for Old Trafford. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes new signing Antonio Valencia can help Manchester United to a record fourth consecutive league title. Valencia, 23, is likely to be the first of a handful of new arrivals at Old Trafford as Ferguson seeks to replace the attacking threats of Ronaldo and striker Carlos Tevez, who has opted not to join the Red Devils permanently. But despite the prospect of more new names on the way, Ferguson is already convinced he has secured a player who can have a big impact on next term's title defence. 'Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan,' he said. 'I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team. 'If nothing else, Valencia's arrival ensures Wayne Rooney should be given the more central berth he craves next season as the Ecuador star is unlikely to venture into the middle quite as much as Ronaldo.
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