Manchester United and Manchester City are reportedly gearing up to enter the race for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer. Elsewhere, the Red Devils are said to be lining up a move for Everton's Ross Barkley.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo (h/t Sport Witness) reported that while likely Aubameyang suitors Real Madrid and Barcelona may not move for the player this year, United and City are happy to offer alternative destinations.
The theory is that United manager Jose Mourinho will launch a bid to recruit the Gabon international in the event Zlatan Ibrahimovic chooses not to extend his stay at Old Trafford when his deal comes to an end this summer.
However, it's debatable whether either United or City could realistically rival for Aubameyang's signature when neither club is challenging for the Premier League title and while the striker is in the hottest form of his career, per BT Sport:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 26 #Bundesliga goals this season, his highest ever return in a single league campaign. Boom 😎 https://t.co/cK1va9XNzp2017-4-15 17:04:16
Aubameyang has made no secret of his desire to play at the Santiago Bernabeu in the past, telling French radio station RMC (h/t The Independent) in January of this year that it was his "dream" to pull on Real Madrid's colours.
Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watze recently spoke on Doppelpass, a programme broadcast by German broadcaster Sport1 (h/t James Robson of Manchester Evening News):
James Robson @JamesRobsonMEN
Dortmund's £65m price tag put City off Aubameyang last summer. Quotes of £70m likely to do likewise this year2017-4-11 08:59:43
Watze said: "I think he will stay with us. But if Real Madrid or Barcelona come along with an offer, maybe he'll think about it. The rest of the clubs who are interested in him are not really an alternative for him. And certainly not Bayern (Munich) because we wouldn't allow him join them."
Ibrahimovic would be a big loss for United if the 35-year-old did decide not to extend his stay at Old Trafford, having already scored 28 goals in his maiden campaign for the English giants. City have more options in Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, although MEN's Robson noted Aubameyang's price could be a major obstacle:
Meanwhile, Mourinho is chasing a move for Toffees star Barkley two years after having a £35 million offer for the player turned down while he was still at the Chelsea helm, per the Mirror's John Richardson.
The Evertonian is entering the final year of his contract at Goodison Park and could be picked up for a smaller fee is he does leave. However, ex-Chelsea and England star Frank Lampard suggested his progress may be better served at Everton during his appearance on Match of the Day this Saturday:
Match of the Day @BBCMOTD
Lampard says Barkley is now a man and not a boy. Is the best thing for him to stay at Everton? https://t.co/wU2mRvKA45 #MOTD https://t.co/uJut0ncvKM2017-4-15 22:27:47
Barkley, 23, has already been offered a new £100,000-per-week contract, according to Richardson, and manager Ronald Koeman is said to have told the midfielder he'll be sold unless he signs.
That could play right into the hands of the Red Devils, who would be more readily equipped to satisfy Barkley's wage demands if it meant getting their hands on one of England's top playmaking prospects.