Espanyol cool on United link
By Francisco Acedo
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Espanyol have played down reports linking Man Utd with midfielder Ivan De la Pena.Espanyol have played down reports linking Manchester United with a swoop for midfielder Ivan De la Pena.
The former Barcelona star, known as Little Buddha, has enjoyed a terrific season for Espanyol and has been an integral part of the Catalans' push for European qualification - they currently lie sixth in La Liga just three points off third place.
De la Pena's form has been such that he has finally earned international recognition this term, making his debut against San Marino in February and playing again last month against Serbia & Montenegro.
United have dispatched representatives to watch Espanyol five times in recent months with their targets believed to be goalkeeper Carlos Kameni or central defender Albert Lopo, who is out of contract in the summer.
However, sources in Spain on Tuesday surprisingly suggested it was De la Pena who was the subject of their interest.
Espanyol have poured cold water on the speculation, though, and insist they have not received any approach from Old Trafford for the midfield schemer.
"At this moment we have not received any proposition from Manchester United," Espanyol director of sport Cristobal Parralo told skysports.com.
"I believe that there are rumours in the press because several scouts of United have been at our matches in the last few months."
De la Pena's agent Manel Ferrer also denied having been contacted by the Premiership titans, but conceded his client's form had caught the eye of several European sides.
"I do not have any proposition from Manchester United for the player, but Ivan is playing at a great level and several European clubs are following his progress," Ferrer added.
De la Pena signed a three-year contract at Espanyol last summer and it would take a substantial bid to prise the midfielder from Estadio Olimpico.
Indeed, the 29-year-old himself refused to comment on the speculation and insisted he was focusing all of his efforts on helping his club secure European football next term.
"I have a contract until 2007 and am only thinking about Espanyol qualifying for European competition," he stated.