Manchester United and Chelsea have been handed a transfer lifeline over Spain star Xabi Alonso, according to reports in the player's homeland.
The Real Madrid playmaker has been heavily linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu, with both the Blues and Red Devils thought to be courting the 32-year-old.
However, Cadena Ser claims president Florentino Perez is bracing himself for the midfielder's exit, and fears he won't pen a new deal before his current contract expires in the summer.
That means clubs outside of La Liga will be free to negotiate a deal with the player on January 1st, and will alert interested parties ahead of a potential bidding war in the New Year.
Manchester United were linked with a move for the player in the summer, and El Confidencial claimed earlier in the week that they made a €40million bid in the transfer window.
David Moyes replaced Red Devils legend Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm in the summer, but failed to bring a number of high-profile targets to Old Trafford.
Landing Alonso for nothing would be a major coup for the Manchester United chief, if he can pull it off, but there will be serious competition for such a highly-rated player.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is another interested party, and a man who has first-hand experience of the player after working with him during his own stint in the Spanish capital.
The Blues have generally invested in young players both before and during 'the special one's' reign at Stamford Bridge, although the purchase of Samuel Eto'o did show that experience is still values in west London.
Alonso would certainly give Chelsea that, but a substantial contract will be needed to beat off the competition.