Real Madrid and Barcelona are preparing to do battle over the future of Gareth Bale, with both clubs holding exploratory discussions with the player's representatives over a switch from Tottenham Hotspur to Spanish football. A summer bid by either club would trigger a counteroffer from their great domestic rival.
Barcelona have expressed their intention to more than double Bale's current salary by paying him €7 million (Dh34.2m) a season at Camp Nou.
Real say they will go higher still, offering €9m per annum if the Wales international chooses them, an option his advisers are thought to be leaning towards.
The Spanish and European champions' interest in Bale stems from concerns that their playing tactics have developed a degree of predictability. Dani Alves, nominally a right-back, pushes up the field to provide the team with a width that is usually absent on the opposite side.
Adding Bale to the squad, calculates Pep Guardiola, would allow his team to attack from either full-back berth, or both, in any match.
He also intends to use Bale from a starting position on the left side of his attack.
The complication for Barcelona, whose sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, held two meetings about Bale towards the end of the year, will be breaking Tottenham's resistance to selling their most valuable asset.
Harry Redknapp, Tottenham's manager, and Daniel Levy, their chairman, have compared Bale's value to Cristiano Ronaldo, who ultimately left Manchester United for £80m (Dh464.8m) when he joined Real in 2009.
Though Barcelona's income rose to €485m in the last financial year, the club continues to nurse a substantial debt and would seek to restrict the fee to €30m.
On top of a cash sum they will consider offering players from their well-regarded B squad, which included a long-term Tottenham target, the central defender Marc Bartra.
Outmanoeuvred last year by Barcelona over the pursuit of the young Brazil forward Neymar, Real are determined to thwart them over Bale. On top of offering superior personal terms they intend to outbid Barca over the transfer fee or push the price to a level their rivals would not be prepared to meet.
Bale's representatives, meanwhile, have been attempting to position their 22-year-old client as the next Ronaldo, arguing that his blend of pace, athletic physique and attacking elan could be developed into an effectiveness equivalent to the game's most expensive player.
Tottenham are in a strong position to maximise their profit on a player signed from Southampton for £7m in 2007, having extended his contract until 2015 last season.