Inter Milan resumed negotiations on Thursday with Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for the transfer of Samuel Eto'o in a deal that could make the Cameroon striker the highest paid footballer in the world.
Eto'o met with Anzhi officials in Milan on Wednesday and reportedly agreed to a three-year contract worth 20 million ($29 million) net per season, which would eclipse the estimated 12 million ($17.4 million) that Cristiano Ronaldo earns at Real Madrid and the 10.5 million ($15.2 million) that Lionel Messi is paid by Barcelona.
However, Italian media report that Inter is seeking a transfer fee of 30 million ($43 million), while Anzhi has offered 22 million ($32 million).
Intermediary agent Peppino Tirri told the ANSA news agency the sides are nearing a deal with more talks planned.
At 30, Eto'o is still in his prime, but he has already won three Champions League titles - two with Barcelona and one with Inter - and is apparently excited about playing in the developing Russian league.
Anzhi, from the troubled southern Russian province of Dagestan, is owned by billionaire oil tycoon Suleiman Kerimov.
In Forbes magazine's latest list of the world's richest people, Kerimov's net worth was estimated at $7.8 billion, tying him for 118th place with Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and family.
Anzhi's captain is 38-year-old Roberto Carlos, once the standout left back for Brazil.
The transfer fee for Eto'o could also make it one of the most expensive deals this season, near the 29 million ($42 million) Barcelona paid Arsenal on Monday to bring Cesc Fabregas back to his boyhood club.
The biggest deal during this transfer window was the 38 million pounds ($62 million) Manchester City paid Atletico Madrid for Sergio Aguero last month. Also, Paris Saint-Germain paid 42 million ($60 million) to Palermo for Javier Pastore.
"When an offer like that comes around, it's difficult to match or refuse," Inter president Massimo Moratti told Wednesday's Gazzetta dello Sport.
Moratti added that UEFA's new financial rules have forced clubs to evaluate their budgets and spending more closely. This season's club accounts are the first ones that formally have to be given to UEFA for inspection - by June 2013.
"Financial fair play is serious," Moratti said. "Whoever doesn't respect the parameters will find themselves excluded from European competition."
Inter is eyeing Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid, Ezequiel Lavezzi of Napoli or Carlos Tevez of Manchester City as a replacement for Eto'o. Inter's other forwards are Giampaolo Pazzini, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev.
Meanwhile, playmaker Wesley Sneijder appears set to remain at Inter.
Eto'o led Inter with 37 goals in all competitions last season, having replaced Milito as the club's biggest scoring threat. He was a key member of the Inter side that won the Champions League in 2010, often accepting an attacking midfield or defensive role for then-Inter coach Jose Mourinho.
Before joining Inter in 2009, Eto'o played five seasons with Barcelona, helping the Catalan club to two Champions League titles.
Makhachkala is plagued by near daily violence from insurgency that has spread across the North Caucasus after two separatist wars in Dagestan's neighboring region of Chechnya.
Anzhi players live and train at a training camp outside Moscow and travel to Makhachkala for home games, flying about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) 15 times a season.
Kerimov's worth was nearly the size of Dagestan's gross regional product in 2008.
A Dagestani native, Kerimov has been pumping money into the team ever since he bought it in January, with some critics comparing the tycoon's spending spree to a "feast in time of plague."