Just when the path to star Verona winger Juan Iturbe seemed to be opening up for Liverpool, a serious competitor entered the frame in AC Milan.
Real Madrid had long been seen as the frontrunner in the race for for 21-year-old this summer, but last week boss Carlo Ancelotti reportedly turned down the chance to sign 'the next Messi' for £24 million.
That seemingly left the Reds, in need of a quality addition out wide in attack, clear to make a move for the Mastini man - who they’ve been linked with several times in the past six months.
But Milan then showed up to the party. Iturbe is reportedly new boss Pippo Inzaghi’s top target, with the Rossoneri tipped to make a £20 million move for the Argentine youngster.
There seemed to be a slight flaw with this turn of events, however. Milan’s once unrivalled spending power has dropped precipitously as president Silvio Berlusconi has tired of investing in the team in recent years.
Instead of expensive blockbuster deals, the San Siro side have become known bargain hunters, negotiating free transfers for the likes of Keisuke Honda and Kaka.
Unless Berlusconi decided to improbably loosen the purse strings once more, how could Milan compete with Liverpool for a premium-priced youngster?
According to Sky Sport Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio, by taking advantage of a strong bond with Hellas Verona.
A report from Di Marzio reads: “[Milan vice-president Adriano] Galliani asked for some time, likely to find the right solution (savings on the wages of Robinho and Kaka) to present the right offer.
“There is a great relationship between the two clubs, especially considering [Verona sporting director Sean] Sogliano will likely be Milan’s sporting director next season.
“At the moment Milan is getting preferential treatment from Verona on the Iturbe deal, which is an advantage that can’t be underestimated considering the competition.”
With a wretched 2013/14 season on the books that saw fans in constant protest, Milan have become all too aware that the club is in a precarious situation.
Signing an exciting young star like Iturbe, who shone last term in Serie A with eight goals and four assists, would go some way to getting back in the good graces of supporters.
And Verona’s willingness to play ball on Milan’s terms is in the Rossoneri’s favour, threatening to leave Liverpool out in the cold, even with their greater spending power at present.
Whether the Milanese outfit can ultimately close the deal remains to be seen, but at the very least are giving Liverpool a run for their money in the race for Iturbe - by using leverage beyond simple financial means.