Manchester City are reportedly close to signing FC Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala during the summer transfer window, but according to the latest reports, rivals Manchester United are looking to battle the Citizens for the French international's signature.
As reported by The Daily Mail's John Edwards, David Moyes was in Portugal on Wednesday to watch the Portuguese cup semi-final between Porto and Benfica, with Sportsmail claiming Mangala was part of a group of players being scouted by the Red Devils' manager.
Jackson Martinez and Guilherme Siqueira were the other two players reportedly on Moyes' list of targets, with Mangala receiving the bulk of the report's attention.
But The Telegraph's Jason Burt claimed City were "close" to signing the talented defender just two weeks ago, with Portuguese sources already citing a transfer fee of a reported £29 million:
Manchester City are closing in on deals to sign Porto pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando for a combined fee of £41 million. [...]
The deal to sign Mangala, a rangy 23-year-old central defender who is a France international, is the most progressed, with sources in Portugal claiming yesterday that the fee could be as high as £29 million.
Per Edwards, Mangala has a £37.8 million buyout clause, a steep figure for a defender. And while Moyes might be entering the summer transfer window with a sizeable transfer budget, a battle with City and their seemingly unlimited funds could turn explosive in a hurry.
The Mirror's Ed Malyon doesn't seem convinced Mangala would be worthy of such a hefty price tag in his assessment of the player following Porto's Europa League fixture against Napoli:
A promising defender with lots of positives but nowhere near a £30million centre-back, let alone £40m. That said, with Jorge Mendes as his agent he won't struggle to get a move for an inflated fee.
One of the world's most gifted athletes at the centre-back position, Mangala has been linked with a move to the Premier League for a while now, and it's easy to see why.
On top of his obvious physical skills, the Frenchman has excellent vision for a 23-year-old, and with the versatility to play left-back, he could be a very useful building block for any team looking to improve their back line.
He's also been Porto's top defender during the 2013-14 season, showing he can lead by example despite his young age. Paired with a more experienced defender such as Vincent Kompany or Jonny Evans, Mangala's physical tools could be a smash hit in the Premier League.
According to L'Equipe (via talkSPORT), the defender has made it very clear he loves the Premier League:
Even if you have the best agent in the world, if you’re not good on the pitch, there won’t be clubs interested. It’s no secret that the Premier League is, for me, the coolest league in the world. Whatever the opponent, you always know the game will be difficult. The play is intense, quick, contested.
And with several of United's top defenders like Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra set to leave the club at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, as reported by the Daily Star's Paul Hetherington, defensive reinforcements will be sorely needed.
Gary Lineker also sees the same need:
Manchester United's season could be closing down faster than their defenders.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 25, 2014
With that in mind, Mangala's physical readiness and sky-high ceiling could be just what the doctor ordered for the Red Devils, even at such an inflated price tag.
The young defender looks more than capable of starting in the Premier League, and should he reach his potential, a £40 million move to secure the team's defence for the next decade could prove to be a bargain.
But with City also interested in Mangala and reportedly close to making a deal, Moyes will have to move fast to avoid losing the highly touted Frenchman.
This particular transfer battle could get interesting really fast, and if Mangala can put together a solid World Cup this summer, don't be surprised if one of the Manchester teams break the transfer record for a defender for his signature.