Fiorentina have reportedly turned down Manchester United's €60 million (£52.8 million) offer for defender Nikola Milenkovic, who is understood to have impressed Jose Mourinho during the international break.
La Nazione (h/t Calciomercato.com) reported the Red Devils manager was in awe of the 21-year-old's display in Serbia's 2-0 UEFA Nations League win over Montenegro on Thursday and instructed his board to launch a move, which has since been rejected.
It's suggested La Viola turned the bid down as they'd prefer not to sell during the winter transfer window.
Mourinho was in attendance at the Podgorica City Stadium in Montenegro, although Ciaran Kelly of the Manchester Evening News noted Milenkovic won't have been the only player grabbing his attention:
Ciaran Kelly @MENCKelly
Serbia boss Mladen Krstajic claims Jose Mourinho will attend Thursday's match vs Montenegro even though Nemanja Matic is injured. Mourinho previously watched winger Mijat Gacinovic and obviously likes Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Nikola Milenković a highly-rated centre-back too #mufc
Milenkovic is a robust asset for one so young and turned out regularly at both centre-back and right-back for Fiorentina last season, although he looks to have migrated fully to the right side under Stefano Pioli this term.
He resembles Serbia compatriot Branislav Ivanovic in terms of his versatility, but his aggression and up-front nature are earning comparisons to another respected countryman, ex-Red Devil Nemanja Vidic:
La Nazione noted Fiorentina may not want to part ways with their player in January, but it's also suggested they could have rejected United's offer because they want more for his signature at the end of the campaign.
It's a good omen for United, at least, that Milenkovic is understood to be a big Vidic fan and may hold some affinity for United:
Ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic said he saw a "new Vidic" in the developing Milenkovic, and the malleable defender was flattered when speaking to reporters:
“It is magnificent to be compared to the likes of Vidic and I have to stay humble with both feet firmly on the ground.
“Vidic was one hell of a player while I am in the fledgling stage of my career and hence I have to keep working hard in order to climb that mountain.
“Krstajic's praise means so much because it's an impetus to keep improving."
The prescribed fees may be accurate, but for a club that deemed the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Jerome Boateng and Harry Maguire shaky investments in the summer, per the Guardian, this strikes as odd.
After all, much was made of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindeolf, both 24, before and at the time of their moves to United. Now, though, both are in United's centre-back rotation and have lost some of their former lustre.
Sport Witness cited the same La Nazione report and suggested Milenkovic's agent is all for the transfer materialising and campaigned to Fiorentina to move a deal along, offering more cause for comfort in United's chase.
It's expected the Premier League giants will return with another offer, but Milenkovic is far from the veteran force almost certain to improve the defence that the Red Devils perhaps should be targeting.