Real Madrid chief Jorge Valdano says they did all they could to try to find an agreement with Valencia for striker David Villa.
"We were very close to reaching an agreement, we began to develop negotiations with Valencia, but there was a change in strategy and that has made us look the other way," said Valdano.
"He was a priority and we showed all the determination in the world to complete the operation.
"We were prepared to go a little higher than our limit, but we couldn't reach an agreement. The figure we came to was for someone of 'super class'. The other two, we paid more because they're Ballon d'Ors."
Valdano believes there's no way back for the deal.
He added: "If the player returns (from South Africa) and bangs on the door demanding they let him go, we will be blamed. They'll say Real Madrid messed with his mind."