Liverpool are hoping to trump Manchester United for Phil Jones as Blackburn Rovers dig in their heels over the defender's price-tag. The Mail on Sunday says Liverpool have told Blackburn they will pay £22million for Jones, a move that will ruin Sir Alex Ferguson's holiday mood as he takes a break in the south of France.
Arsenal have also belatedly submitted a bid that tops United's £16.5m offer, and with Chelsea showing serious interest in the player, too, an auction appears to be unfolding. It will come as a bitter blow to Ferguson if he misses out on Jones, and it will sting all the harder if the player ends up at United's fierce rivals at Anfield.
Rovers' owners have been angered by United's attitude and at a meeting on Saturday in Pune, India, which was attended by manager Steve Kean - straight off a plane to Mumbai - they resolved to prevent the deal going through.
United have offered to make Jones the highest-paid teenager in the history of English football with a startling £80,000-a-week contract, but Blackburn are even prepared to top that.
Rovers chairwoman Anuradha Desai made it clear to Kean and fellow executives, who made up a 'war council' in India, that they must try to persuade the defender to stay. The prospect of being a future club captain is also being dangled before Jones.
A source close to Rovers said. "United can't do what they want in this case. Jones is a Blackburn player and while there is a clause that could mean he leaves, it's far from the straightforward issue everyone assumes it to be."