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MANCHESTER UNITED have again been linked with Portuguese defender Beto, but it seems his future lies with Real Madrid, which will also disappoint Barcelona who, like the English champions, had hoped to sign the international centre half.

Real Madrid have already agreed a £10.7 million fee with Sporting Lisbon, according to the Portuguese club, but the deal is only a preliminary contract and so other clubs could still purchase the 24-year-old defender.

United and Barca are very keen and Sir Alex Ferguson watched him personally last April, after being invited to Portugal by Red Devils legend Peter Schmeichel, but Madrid still remain firm favourites, although they, like Barcelona, are yet to decide on their summer transfer targets.

Barcelona are still desperate for a central defender and are believed to have drawn up a shortlist that includes, Beto, Bayern Munich`s Samuel Kuffour, Rafael Marquez of Monaco, Cris of Cruzeiro and Lausanne`s Stephane Gobet.

Other players wanted are Ajax`s Cristian Chivu and Auxerre`s Phillipe Mexes, but they face a tough test to get either as both are wanted by a host of Europe`s elite.

Kuffour, Beto and Cris are all long-term targets of the Catalan club and are very high on the list of potential candidates, but the targeting of Rafael Marquez and Stephane Gobet are new.

Marquez currently plays for Monaco, but the 21-year-old Mexican is earning rave reviews and could be a surprise capture for Barca.

The most unlikely target seems to be Lausanne`s Gobet. The 20-year-old has only broke into the starting line-up this season, but he, like Marquez, is performing well and has come under the eye of the Barca scouting network, which is currently scouring Europe for new defenders.