The Portuguese runners-up create a path for Garay’s move.
Manchester United have moved a step closer to signing defensive target Ezequiel Garay from Benfica with the Portuguese club having already lined up the centre-back’s replacement, reports the Mirror.
Garay has been on United’s agenda for some time and his side seem resigned to losing the Argentinian after preparing a £3.5m move for Lisandro Lopez from Arsenal de Sarandi – who plays in the same position as the 26-year-old.
The arrival of Lopez would mean Garay has the green light to make the transfer to Old Trafford, with a bid from new manager David Moyes in the region of £17m likely to seal the deal.
With first choice centre-backs at the Red Devils Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both in their 30s, Moyes is looking towards the future at the club and sees the Argentina international as the perfect long-term successor.
Garay has spent the past two seasons at the Estadio da Luz after making a £4.8m transfer from Real Madrid, having failed to truly make his mark in the Spanish capital.
However, at Benfica the defender has excelled and is now regarded as one of the best centre-backs in European football.
Signing Garay would represent Moyes’ second transfer since taking over at United having already brought in Uruguayan youngster Guillermo Varela for £1.5m.
The arrival of the Argentine would probably signal the end of one of the Red Devils’ current centre-backs’ time at the club, with five players already in that position on the books.
Young defenders Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are unlikely to be sold on due to their potential, meaning it could be time for either Ferdinand or Vidic to move on.