Leeds United are reported to be closing in on Valencia defender Fabian Ayala.

New Elland Road boss Terry Venables has money to spend, and a replacement for Rio Ferdinand is his main priority.

Ironically, Ayala, 29, has often been linked with big-money move to Old Trafford. The Argentina international did little to quell the speculation when he said: “I would love to play in England, it’s a league I really like, and there are lots of good players …… who knows what will happen in the next days”

A number of top defenders have been touted as potential replacements for the departed Ferdinand. It is believed that first choice was former Old Trafford star Jaap Stam. His current club, Lazio, are in dire financial straits and are ready to listen to offers for the 29-year-old.

However, Stam was not keen on a return to the Premiership, preferring to establish himself in Serie A.

William Gallas, the young Chelsea defender is another supposed target. He is refusing to sign a new contract, and has a buy-out clause in his contract for œ7.5 million. All the speculation could end soon though with a deal for Ayala expected to be finalised as soon as tomorrow.