Dinamo Zagreb right-back Ivo Pinto as fuelled further speculation of a potential move to Aston Villa after declaring that he would be open to a move abroad.
Pinto, 24, moved to Zagreb from CFR Cluj back in 2013 and has impressed during his short stint in Croatia, helping the club win the league title last season, before putting in a string of impressive performances in the Europa League this term.
The Portuguese defender even earned his first national team call-up last month, despite not seeing the pitch, with new manager Fernando Santos keen to introduce fresh blood into the setup.
His reputation on the rise, the former Porto trainee has now declared that he would like to move to a stronger league at some point in the near future, telling reporters following his club’s 1-0 defeat to Astra: “I am currently a Dinamo Zagreb player, I have a contract here.
“However, of course I would like to play at a stronger side in a tougher league, it is only natural to feel this way.”
Valued at around £4 million, it remains to be seen how serious Villa’s reported interest in Pinto is, considering the incumbent Alan Hutton has been more than solid since returning to the first-team fold, but the fact that backup Matthew Lowton has been linked with an exit in recent weeks suggest there might be some truth to the rumours.
However, Paul Lambert’s side could well face competition for his signature come the transfer window, with Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic declaring his interest in the former under-21 international this month.
“I said Ivo Pinto is a good player but we will see how the talks go,” he said.
“Pinto is one of the players we are interested in but in fact there are 5-6 candidates we are looking into.
“Hopefully we bring in 2-3 players, we are lacking depth and have a limited squad right now”