Madonna and Guy Ritchie will announce their divorce in the next week, reports claim.

Media speculation of the pair's impending separation has increased in recent months weeks, with rumours of an affair between the Material Girl and New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez.

Madonna even went to the lengths of issuing a statement rubbishing reports of the state of her marriage, but according to the Sun newspaper, she and her filmmaker husband will split this week.

It was believed the pair would announce their separation when Madonna's Sticky and Sweet world tour finishes in November but a series of arguments has now brought their divorce forward.

"Madonna and Guy have been spending months trying to make the marriage work," the Sun's showbiz editor Gordon Smart told Sky News.

"I think they have reached the point now where there's no way they can repair the damage that's been done.

"I think the last few weeks in particular, they have had so many arguments it's just come to the stage where they have decided to finish with the pretence."

Ritchie is said to have flown back to the UK from a film shoot in France and the tabloid claims the couple are preparing a statement regarding their future.

In her statement of denial in July, Madonna urged fans to take media reports with a pinch of salt.

"I have learned over the years not to take accusations and the many false reports about me very seriously," she explained.

"I also appreciate how fiction and fact seem to be perceived as one and the same by people who read both newspapers and the internet."

Should today's reports prove correct, a private divorce, rather than the high-profile split of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, is expected.

15/10/2008 08:30:59