Manchester United and Arsenal have been outmanoeuvred by Barcelona and Real Madrid as the race to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hots up.
A report from Spanish newspaper El Confidencial claims that Barcelona have stepped up their interest in the Germany international, but will struggle to convince him his future lies at Camp Nou and not with Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United have been credited with an interest in the report, but it claims the 23-year-old has already told Gunners manager Arsene Wenger that his hopes of pairing him with international teammate Mesut Özil have little chance of being realised.
The reason being, according to the report, is that Gundogan has his heart set on moving to Real Madrid, which is why Manchester United have joined their Premier League counterparts in pulling out of negotiations.
A sale in January seems unlikely, however, as Dortmund are currently suffering from a serious injury crisis that has seen a number of first team regualrs ruled out with long-term injuries.
Gundogan is a crucial member of Jurgen Klopp's midfield and will be needed if they are to turn around a season that is threatening to fall off the rails before the turn of the year.