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The groundwork is being laid for Kaka to join Manchester United in a major summer transfer coup - but Sir Alex Ferguson says he has never been gobsmacked by the one-time world player of the year.

Not even when the Brazil playmaker engineered a 3-0 defeat of his side in the 2007 Champions League semi-final on his way to being named the finest player on the planet? Apparently not.

Asked for his views on the best players to have graced the Champions League, Ferguson will have surprised many by actually naming a defender as his No 1.

'When I think of the current generation, Lionel Messi is top-level,' Ferguson told The Independent. 'And, although he has never taken my breath away, Kaka has impressed, Zinedine Zidane was brilliant but without a doubt, Paolo Maldini has been my favourite.

'He has a wonderful presence, competitive spirit, athleticism, and although not the world's greatest technically, he has influenced all the AC Milan teams during his wonderfully successful era.'

Despite the faint praise for Kaka, United are prepared to start the bidding at £50million for the 27-year-old, who is seen as a replacement for perennial Real Madrid target Cristiano Ronaldo.

Intermediaries of the Premier League champions will meet Milan in the next week to discuss figures and the possibility of luring the brilliant playmaker to Old Trafford. Manchester City had a £100m bid accepted for Kaka in January, only for him to reject the move, and Chelsea also maintain an interest.

Sportsmail revealed last month that Real Madrid are convinced they can finally strike a £75million deal for Portugal winger Ronaldo, 24.

As United prepare to line up against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final, first leg, Ferguson admits the Old Trafford showdown will have to go a long way to beat his favourite performance in the competition.

'Without a doubt, the 7-1 victory over Roma at Old Trafford in the quarter-final of the 2006-07 Champions League was the best.

'It was a record score for the quarter-finals. We went into that game against a top Italian side that had beaten us 2-1 in the first leg.

Our first-half performance was out of this world, and Luciano Spalletti's team were shell-shocked because our quick, one-touch play was exceptionally good.

'Some of our goals were brilliant, in particular the fluid, one-touch play leading to the strike by Alan Smith.

'That game certainly stands out. As does the 3-3 draw away to FC Barcelona, which should have ended up 20-20 the way both teams attacked.'

These rumours were started by Spoony on the caf. There's absolutely no truth in it at all. It was a wind up.
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