Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond is under the impression Leicester Tigers have "broken the bank" to re-sign George Ford from Bath and thinks the England fly-half wants to return to Welford Road.
Ford has been tipped to leave the Rec since his father Mike was sacked as head coach last May and Diamond has made no secret of his interest in luring the playmaker to Sale.
The 23-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season, but reportedly contains a clause permitting him to move on when this campaign comes to an end.
Diamond expects Oldham-born Ford to head back to the club he left to join Bath prior to the 2013-14 season.
He told BBC Sport: "It's never been a deal [for Sale].
"We've not approached him as there is still some legal wrangling going on with Bath.
"It looks like Leicester have broken the bank for him, and a club their size has to do that I think.
"We're in the open market looking for five or six players. We're well down the line with them and if we don't get the opportunity to speak to George Ford and he signs for Leicester there is not much we can do about it - I think it is his desire is to go there."