Donny van de Beek has allegedly informed his Ajax team-mates that he is headed for Manchester United.
But their interest has cooled post-covid, while Barcelona's new coach, Ronald Koeman, is a long-term admirer but has numerous other squad issues to solve, not least the onrunning saga surrounding Lionel Messi's future.
Koeman, who worked with Van de Beek with the Dutch national team, was looking to sell players to raise funds to meet Ajax's £49m valuation, but the process will take longer than expected.
As a result Manchester United have emerged from the pack, and Van de Beek was not involved in Ajax's friendlies with Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin, with coach Erik ten Hag confirmed that the player was not injured.
Reports from Spain suggest that the midfielder has informed his colleagues that he will be moving to Manchester, with the deal now thought to be virtually a formality.
Van de Beek would United's first major summer acquisition as they continue to be linked with a move for Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.