Manchester United's hopes of landing Feyenoord defender Stefan De Vrij have suffered a major blow after Igli Tare, Lazio's sporting director, indicated the Dutchman wishes to play for the Serie A side.
Anthony Chapman of the Express reports comments from Tare, who appears confident he will lure De Vrij away from Louis van Gaal's grasp:
Many things have been said and written about De Vrij and his transfer to United but this is not true. His agent has said clearly that he has never been to Manchester to meet with the English club. De Vrij's will is to play in Lazio.
Which club would you rather play for?
Respected Sky Italia reporter Gianluca Di Marzio adds weight to the story, indicating United may face a real battle to land the 22-year-old's signature. De Vrij has posted a handful of terrific performances at the World Cup, scoring one goal, and looks excellent value for money at the reported £7 million fee.
His working relationship with Van Gaal could be key. While Tare indicates the player will choose Lazio over United, the individual is yet to state his preference. Neither offer Champions League football next season and both need to rebuild squads that are struggling to maintain pace with their domestic leaders.
United certainly need to secure at least two centre-back signings after Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand called time on their Old Trafford careers.
Van Gaal would be wise to invest in a combination of quality and improving talent, as we've already seen with the club's signing of Luke Shaw. De Vrij's excellent concentration and reading of the game has been underlined in Brazil, where he should be considered one of the tournament's best performers.
De Vrij is, understandably, keeping any potential decision close to his chest, noted by Elko Born of FourFourTwo:
Stefan de Vrij on a possible transfer: 'Nothing is clear yet. I will not comment on that.' (via NOS)— Elko Born (@Elko_B) July 9, 2014
Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels should be considered the most impressive name to potentially fill United's defensive void. The Germany star continues to be linked with a Westfalenstadion exit and is said to fancy working with Van Gaal, reported by Jamie Jackson of the Guardian:
Hummels, who is now 25 and could cost up to £30m, was then at Bayern Munich, having joined as a six-year-old when his father moved from Bergisch Gladbach – his birthplace – to became a youth team coach at “club Hollywood”.
[...] Hummels is also an admirer of Van Gaal and would welcome the chance to work with the incoming United manager who, although aware of this, is conscious Dortmund are resistant to selling him.
Prior to the World Cup, Hummels remained cagey when discussing a potential move away from Dortmund, saying, "I never think about that or talk about it because it is something that isn't important for me right now. Maybe it will be some day, but I don’t expect it to be like that this summer," per Jackson.
United fans would have reason to rejoice if the classy German defender can be secured, as a potential partnership with De Vrij would finally ensure United have quality for the coming years. Question marks rightfully surround the progress of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both of whom suffered disappointing seasons last year and have persistently struggled to show why they were rated so highly as teenagers.
There's certainly no way Van Gaal can start the season with this duo and Jonny Evans, as United need a squad-wide galvanisation. Considering hefty amounts of cash are likely to be spent, the £7 million total for De Vrij continues to stand out as a top piece of business.
Whether such a sum sees him land at the Theatre of Dreams remains to be seen. Tare appears confident when discussing the impressive youngster whose reputation has strengthened during the Netherlands' World Cup run.