Manchester United may pursue the talents of Axel Witsel more vigorously after the Belgian revealed his long-held admiration of Manchester United, but the Red Devils look set to miss out on Real Madrid's Raphael Varane.
In an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report's Samindra Kunti during Zenit's training camp in Qatar, Witsel spoke of one day joining his countrymen in England, outlining Old Trafford as a particular point of interest:
I want to play in one of the top clubs in Europe one day. It’s true that I like the Premier League, because it is one of the best league’s in the world, for me, together with Germany and Spain.
It is a very good league, it is a crazy league. A lot of my colleagues play there, but we will see. I am still young, only 26. We ‘ll see in the future. I have always liked Manchester United from when I was young.
The 26-year-old does add that his current ambitions lie solely with Zenit, but Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj may hope to see their international compatriot one day arrive.
His Premier League intrigue is nothing new, however, as Kristof Terreur of Dutch publication Het Laatste Nieuws points out his previous statements regarding Arsenal:
United manager Louis van Gaal will undoubtedly take notice of Witsel's comments, though, as his skill set is certainly something the team could do with adding in central midfield.
A deeper-lying anchoring presence with an ability to initiate attacks from a team's core, Witsel would fit the midfield general profile the Red Devils have been lacking, something they once hoped Fellaini would prove to be.
Van Gaal will soon have space to fill in midfield, too, after reports emerged from Sky Sports and Spanish newspaper AS (h/t Eurosport) that Valencia have joined West Brom in the race to sign Darren Fletcher.
An ideal situation might see United sign Witsel on temporary terms until the end of this season, but GianlucaDiMarzio.com's David Amoyal claims Zenit won't loan out their general:
Another long-term target of Manchester United's is Varane, whose position in Carlo Ancelotti's defensive pecking order has led to uncertainty regarding his future at the Bernabeu.
According to Anthony Chapman of the Express, Chelsea could pip their Premier League rivals to the Frenchman's signature if they agree to loan Kurt Zouma to Inter until season's end. The report quotes the centre-back as being aware of his struggle at Real but insisting any transfer speculation is off the mark:
"I'm 100 per cent with the team and feeling happy. I have a contract until 2020. I'm calm and when I've played, I've tried to do well. Sergio Ramos and Pepe play more than me, but I try to do the best I can."
That being said, settling for third choice in the Spanish capital is something the 21-year-old may only tolerate for so long, having risen to prominence both at Real and with the French national team.
Jonathan Northcroft of the Sunday Times outlines just how highly he rates the former Lens starlet:
Despite signing Marcos Rojo last summer, centre-back is the one area in which United arguably need to add a truly elite talent. If Varane isn't at that level already, it seems only a matter of time before he is.
Chapman touches upon the player's supposed £20 million price tag, with Bleacher Report's Alex Dimond recently discussing another potential La Liga recruit with Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte:
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Should Inter win the race to acquire Zouma's talent for the rest of the 2014-15 campaign, it would appear to only boost Chelsea's chances of adding to their ranks this winter.
However, former Real chief Jose Mourinho would still have an incredible task in convincing his old club to sell, despite offering a more likely chance at first-team football.