Manchester City are looking to prise Spanish international Saul Niguez away from Atletico Madrid.
The 24-year-old is seen as the perfect replacement for veteran defensive midfielder Fernandinho as City bosses look to address the big weakness in Pep Guardiola’s squad this summer.
But Niguez will only be two years into a nine-year contract at the end of the season – and is welded to Atletico even further by a staggering £130million buy-out clause.
That kind of fee will be too expensive even for cash-rich City – but the Premier League champions will still examine the possibility of bringing one of Spain’s stellar talents to the Etihad.
City have done business with Atletico before – paying £35m to land brilliant Argentine striker Sergio Aguero in 2011.
And they are aware that they would have to shatter the £60m club record fee they paid for Riyad Mahrez last year to have any hope of tempting the Spanish club to sell one of their most prized assets.
City began looking towards Niguez towards the end of 2018.
And their need to land a player who can fill Fernandinho’s boots will become even more pressing at the end of the season.
The Blues missed out to Manchester United in the race to land Fred last summer, while Jorginho opted to join Chelsea.
City were in pole position to agree a deal with Ajax for Frenkie De Jong before Barcelona moved in to land the Dutchman for £75m.
And while Guardiola is an admirer of Lyon’s midfield pair Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar, the French club will not contemplate selling either for less than £80million.
That has prompted City to look again at whether Atletico can be tempted into selling Niguez – and if the player himself is open to a move.
The Spanish club have just sealed a new three-and-a-half-year deal with coach Diego Simeone and the Argentine will not want to lose one of his top performers.
Niguez, who has won 15 caps for Spain, has the same intellegence and technique that has made Fernandinho such a key operator for City.
He has won the Europa League twice with Atletico, as well as the Copa del Rey, and played in the 2016 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.