Carlo Ancelotti has moved to warn clubs away from Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso, saying that the Spaniard is a "vital player" for the club.
Alonso's contract at the Bernabeu expires in June and Nick Lustig of the Daily Star reports that Manchester United, Chelsea and Juventus are just some of the sides interested in agreeing a pre-contract agreement this January.
However, Ancelotti is keen to hold onto his midfield anchor and, per Italian outlet Mediaset (h/t Lustig's Star article), noted:
Xabi is a vital player for Madrid now that he's recovered from injury. There are only two players like him in Europe. One is Pirlo and the other is Xabi.
However, we have no intention of making a player exchange deal with Juventus. There is no substance to any rumour like that.
Pirlo is another playmaking veteran entering the final six months of his Juve contract, earning a raft of transfer interest, much of which involves Premier League side Tottenham—per Gary Jones of the Daily Star.
Speculation around Alonso has increased significantly since it was discovered that fellow Real midfield asset Sami Khedira was likely to miss the rest of the season after having surgery on an ACL tear.
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl confirmed the absence over Twitter:
Sami Khedira with a torn ACL--bad news for Germany & Real Madrid.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) November 16, 2013
The German's injury means that Alonso becomes that much more of an important figure for Ancelotti, who will now be desperate to see the player put pen to paper over a contract extension.
In the new year, the 31-year-old will be free to discuss a contract with any club. At Chelsea, the attraction would be a reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho. United, meanwhile, have a strong track record when it comes to winning major honours.
However, Alonso's importance to Madrid is clear. Since returning from injury, the midfielder has helped the Spanish giants net 15 goals in three La Liga outings.
As seasoned a professional as he might be, Alonso's extension would be like signing a new player for Los Merengues, who need his talents in the engine room more now than ever.