Inter Milan have admitted defeat in their pursuit of Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale after claiming they cannot afford the Welsh flyer.
The 21-year-old has been top of Inter's wish list since his starring role against the Italian champions in the UEFA Champions League, scoring a hat-trick at the San Siro before laying on two more in a 3-1 win at White Hart Lane. But Inter technical director Marco Branca says the European champions simply cannot match Spurs's asking price.
"The Tottenham president sent me a nice message saying that €40million was not much for Bale," he said. "The truth is that Bale and Tottenham feel good together. And even in June that price will not be compatible with our approach."
Instead, it seems as if Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini will be I Nerazzurri's standout transfer window acquisition, while they have also added centre-back Andrea Ranocchia and Morocco midfielder Houssine Kharja.
But Branca denied that Pazzini's signing was merely an attempt to match the exploits of neighbours and Serie A leaders AC Milan. Milan signed Pazzini's former Sampdoria strike-partner Antonio Cassano while also landing Mark van Bommel from Bayern Munich, Urby Emanuelson from Ajax and Didac Vila from Espanyol.
"Pazzini is not a response to Milan, he's our choice and he cost enough," said Branca. "We took the opportunity to invest in the future and complete an already exceptional squad."
Pazzini proud to join world champions
Pazzini had been expected to join Juventus but explained that Inter's interest was more concrete. "I read a lot [about Juve's interest] but Inter were the ones who were quick and concrete," he said. "And when the world champions are after you, you have to say yes."
Pazzini said his old partner Cassano has already wished him well. "Antonio sent me a good luck message, he's already won something and I want to do so soon. I'm coming to a team of champions who have already won everything. Milan are ahead so it doesn't just depend on us. There's a gap but there are also many games left. This group aren't satisfied and that gives me confidence."
Pazzini's arrival is also significant because Inter rarely field a first-choice Italian, even though goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi has been filling in for the injured Julio Cesar for some time. "I'm happy to be the Italian centre-forward at Inter, the team which has carried our football to the highest heights in recent years," said the 26-year-old.
"I'm not daunted by the internal competition, it's really impressive to see so many great players in the dressing room." Pazzini will have to compete with Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o for a starting berth while Inter trail Milan by nine points, although with a game in hand.