Real Madrid are reportedly set to opt against pursuing Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso in the January transfer window.
According to a report from earlier in the campaign from Marca's Cristina Navarro and Pablo Polo, Los Blancos were ready to activate a buyback clause in the centre-back's contract with the Catalan club worth €7.5 million (£6.5 million) in the midseason window.
However, according to Eduardo Redondo of Marca, the European champions' interest in signing their former player has cooled, with the Madrid outfit said to have been impressed by the recent displays turned in by Javi Sanchez.
Hermoso moved to Espanyol in 2017 from Real Madrid Castilla and became a part of the first-team setup immediately. He played 22 times for the team last term in La Liga.
It's in 2018-19 where the 23-year-old has really kicked on though, becoming a linchpin in an Espanyol team that surprised a lot of sides early in the season.
While they remain in seventh place in the standings after their good start, in recent weeks Espanyol have struggled for form, losing their last three games La Liga matches in a row.
Hermoso, in particular, was poor in the team's previous La Liga outing, as they were beaten 3-0 by Getafe. Spanish football writer David Cartlidge commented on a tough night for the young defender recently at the hands of Girona's in-form striker Cristhian Stuani too:
Despite the recent blip it's easy to see why Madrid were looking at bringing Hermoso back, as he's arguably been Espanyol's best performer this season.
Although there may be some question marks regarding his distribution from the base of the team there isn't much doubt about his defensive instincts. Hermoso is quick to shut down opponents and is never one to shirk a physical battle.
Scouted Football commented on a deserved international call-up for the defender recently:
Scouted Football @ScoutedFtbl
Mario Hermoso will make his debut for Spain against Bosnia and Herzegovina tonight. He has been an ever-present for Espanyol this season; composed, comfortable in advancing his team forward from the back and up to the physical challenge. Rewarded. https://t.co/tnAZBcLfsK
In the same breath, you can also see why Madrid have faith in Sanchez, a player who has had his skills refined through the club's youth setup.
He started for the first time at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday and scored his first goal for the club in a 6-1 win over Melilla. Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC noted there have been some comparisons between him and Sergio Ramos, but not necessarily for the right reasons:
Madrid do have options at the back in the form of Ramos, Raphael Varane, Nacho and Jesus Vallejo, so there shouldn't be any great rush on the club's part to bring in midseason reinforcements. If Hermoso was to make the move, you sense first-team minutes would be at a premium.
His recent development has fallen in line with regular games at Espanyol. There have been signs lately there are still rough edges in Hermoso's defending to smooth down and the only way he'll do that is with regular game time.