Manchester United have been linked with Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti for several months, with the French defender thought to be a target for the Old Trafford club as part of manager Jose Mourinho's plans for major squad strengthening.
United apparently hoped to take advantage of stalling contract talks between Umtiti and Barcelona and snatch the 24-year-old for the price of his not prohibitive €60m (£52.9m) buyout clause. There was also talk of a potential move to Manchester City.
But, just as the summer transfer window nears, Marca has exposed the reality.
Umtiti and Barça had been locked in talks, but were unable to reach an agreement because of the player's apparently excessive demands. He held the power, though, because there was interest in England and at least one lucrative offer on the table - or so people were told.
Marca's report notes that neither United nor City were/are overly interested in signing him.
Upon being contacted by Umtiti's representatives in December, City are said to have realised they were being used to put pressure on Barça to present improved terms in the contract negotiations. Besides, they splashed a club record fee on Aymeric Laporte a few weeks later.
Marca also pointed out that while a representative seemed to get a handsome €10m (£8.8m) per season offer out of United, Mourinho wasn't bothered about getting Umtiti to Old Trafford. And the authenticity of that proposal perhaps ought to be called into question now anyway.
United had been used as a pawn in a similar game once before, going back to the summer of 2015 when Sergio Ramos was said to be mulling over an offer from the club, only to instead sign a bumper new contract at Real Madrid soon afterwards.
Now that all the cards are on the table, Umtiti's contract talks at Camp Nou can move forward. But he will have to settle for a €2m (£1.8m) yearly salary instead of the larger sums he wanted.