Manchester United searching for ways to bolster their leaky defence is nothing new, with two potential candidates earmarked in La Liga, said to be amongst their favourite options.
Whilst 20-year-old French international Aymeric Laporte has often been mentioned in the gossip columns, by sources such as the Daily Star, the sticking point has always seemed likely to be the €42 million release clause and an unwillingness for Athletic Club Bilbao to negotiate, with the player tied to the Basque outfit until 2018.
The alternative target is another young French international, Raphael Varane, who is reportedly unsettled at Real Madrid given the strong competition for regular football, with Pepe and Sergio Ramos forming the most common partnership in central defence. Carlo Ancelotti is a firm fan of the young player, although he's found it difficult to give Varane as many games as the player might like.
Thus far Manchester United have been thwarted in their enquiries to secure the services of a top-class central defender, within their plans to rebuild a team that can challenge for silverware, but it appears there's a little more leeway on the part of Real Madrid, which could unlock the possibility of signing Raphael Varane. According to various reports in England and Spain, including the Mirror, the 21-year-old is also receptive to the idea of a move to Old Trafford, if it will guarantee him a regular berth in the starting 11.
So long as Real Madrid can secure a fee of around €40 million for his services, they're also more likely to be open to the idea of selling Varane, given they too have been monitoring the impressive rise of Laporte. The suggestions are now that funds Real Madrid would recoup from selling Varane to Manchester United, would then go towards the €42 million release clause of Laporte, which would force Athletic Club Bilbao to the negotiating table.
Interestingly, Laporte parted ways with agent Arturo Canales at the back end of 2014, who represented the player for little more than a month. The young defender is clearly ambitious about his future, although he has a preference to keep any talks or negotiations regarding leaving his current club, firmly behind closed doors. A representation deal with Canales was swiftly terminated by the player, after the agent publicly acknowledged there was interest in his client from Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Clearly, speculation will continue to gather pace ahead of the summer transfer window, although one would assume that if Manchester United are prepared to splash out €40 million for Varane, an extra €2 million for Laporte as the alternative option, wouldn't seem out of reach. Although both would be excellent captures, it seems unlikely the pair could be signed together, given the stiff competition for their services. However, it is seeming increasingly more likely that one or the other of these two highly talented young defenders, will end up plying their trade at Old Trafford next season.