Manchester United's chances of signing Sean Longstaff have taken another hit after Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley declared the precocious midfielder won't be allowed to leave the club this summer.
Ashley spoke to Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail and underlined the Magpies' stance on Longstaff: "The message we want to put out is that he is not for sale. If you've got one like Sean—keep him."
Those words echo the sentiments of manager Steve Bruce, who recently warned the Red Devils off Longstaff:
MailOnline's Craig Hope reported how Newcastle value 21-year-old Longstaff at £50 million, but "are yet to receive a formal offer from Old Trafford."
The Manchester club had been surprised by the price tag, but James Robson of the London Evening Standard recently reported the fee wouldn't deter them from making a move.
Newcastle's determination to rebuff any advances from Bruce's old club is understandable given Longstaff's obvious potential. The playmaker was putting together a breakout campaign last season before he was laid low by a serious knee injury.
Longstaff is regaining his fitness and is likely to be central to Bruce's plans thanks to his drive and technique. Those attributes can be assets in a Newcastle midfield not short of quality thanks to Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-yueng.
Cashing in on Longstaff now would generate more funds after the Magpies secured the signing of striker Joelinton from Hoffenheim for around £40 million. Yet it makes more sense to let Bruce work with the talent already at his disposal rather than forcing the man who replaced Rafa Benitez in the dugout to undertake a full-scale overhaul.
It means the Red Devils may have to expand a search for midfield reinforcements. Adding talent in the middle of the park remains a pressing need after Ander Herrera joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, while doubts persist about the future of Paul Pogba.
Manchester United have struggled to find balance to complement Pogba's flair and vision, with Fred struggling following a big-money move last summer. Meanwhile, holding player Nemanja Matic has also been inconsistent, while Scott McTominay remains raw.
Longstaff would provide the help they need centrally, but the Magpies' resolve to keep him means any deal would perhaps be prohibitive.
The Red Devils would be wiser to step up efforts to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, with Corriere dello Sport (h/t Ryan Taylor of the Daily Express) reporting an agreement has been reached over a potential transfer worth £63 million.