A tough summer project lies ahead for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, and this weekend's latest speculation suggests the Dutch boss will experience some setbacks in his hunt for some of Europe's finest midfield talents.
The first of those difficult pursuits is in relation to Atletico Madrid star Koke. According to Spanish newspaper Marca (h/t ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan), Barcelona are ready to meet the playmaker's €60 million release clause.
And Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu spoke candidly of his affection for the player on Spanish radio programme Al Primer Toque this week, per Corrigan's report, saying: "[Koke] is a spectacular player. I am sure any team would want him, but Atletico are not selling as they want to keep their level."
The comments would only serve in intensifying the rumours that La Blaugrana may be United's main competition in cutting a deal for Diego Simeone's central figure and are currently able to offer better prospects, in the short term at least.
Spanish journalist Guillem Balague says that Koke is adamant he will remain at the Vicente Calderon, however:
Koke told Atl. Madrid yesterday that he is going nowhere. We will see but in any case Atletico wont negotiate his buy out clause of €60m— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) May 31, 2014
Van Gaal will be looking at central midfield as one of his main areas in need of fresh blood after Marouane Fellaini's signing failed to have the desired impact under David Moyes, and Koke's injection of creative spirit spliced with the option of moving out wide would tick a lot of boxes.
Arturo Vidal would be a more specialised option if the Red Devils were to chase up a move for the Chilean international, but major La Liga interest could once again prove to be their undoing.
Real Madrid have shown their appreciation of Vidal, but no more than that. For Pogba, I hope we can sit down in the coming weeks to renew his contract.
Carlo Ancelotti's interest in the South American provides just another stumbling block in United's path to bringing on board some truly elite talent over the months to come, which could prove difficult thanks to their lack of European football.
BeIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri says that any potential Vidal move to Old Trafford is an impossibility before the World Cup but hints that it could come to pass after:
In terms of box-to-box talents, there aren't many players in football today more adept in their field than Vidal, and Van Gaal would be going a long way to removing a thorn that the Red Devils have had in their side for years now if he were to acquire the Serie A superstar.
Patrice Evra's one-year contract extension at the Theatre of Dreams means that left-back isn't as much of an immediate issue for Van Gaal, but Shaw is still being chased as the Frenchman's long-term successor.
Shaw didn't make Roy Hodgson's England squad for the friendly against Peru on Friday evening.
Saints chairman Ralph Krueger has been quoted by the Daily Echo (h/t Sky Sports) in saying that the club are under no financial need to sell off their assets:
First of all, it's very clear that we are in control. We are in control of all the player transfers. All the top players are under long term contracts. Any transfers that take place will be under our terms. We will decide the terms to potential transfers in and out of the club.
Southampton have already rejected a £27 million bid from United for their defender's signature, serving as a benchmark for just how much Van Gaal's side will need to fork out in order to land the 18-year-old.
As is the case with every transfer at this time of year, however, the World Cup is an obstacle that must be worked around, solidifying United's need to make a deal as swiftly as possible.