Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have been dealt a blow after it was revealed that summer transfer target Eric Dier has not rejected the offer of a new deal at Sporting Lisbon.
His father, Jeremy Dier, spoke to Portuguese publication Record to clarify that the reports earlier this week suggesting the 20-year-old had knocked back the offer of a renewal were wide of the mark. Those reports claimed the likes of Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool were ready to move to snap him up.
He's still at Sporting
"Contrary to what has been reported, no one spoke with Eric regarding a renewal and in no time did he say he did not want to play at Sporting," said Dier's father.
"It's not the best time to talk about it. The only thing we know is that he will have to turn up at Sporting on 1 July (for pre-season)."
The versatile youngster, who can play in the back line or as a defensive midfielder, emigrated to Portugal with his mother as a child. After being spotted as a child and impressing in the youth ranks, he went on to sign professional terms with Sporting in 2010.
Dier made his debut in 2012 after becoming a regular in the Sporting B team, but also spent a short time on loan at Premier League club Everton in 2011. He is yet to become an automatic first choice in Lisbon, but his displays have been enough for England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate to call him up.
Manchester United interest
Louis Van Gaal will formally take over at Old Trafford once the Netherlands participation at the World Cup is over and his duties as manager are completed. He is expected to come in a make major changes in at the club after a dismal season laster campaign that saw them finish seventh in the Premier League and cost David Moyes his job.
Sir Alex Ferguson was reportedly interested in Dier when he came of age in 2010, but the player decided to sign professional terms with Sporting instead. Van Gaal's rebuild will need to address the defensive area of the squad, as there is a shortage there.
Veterans Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were both allowed to leave once their contracts had run out, leaving a hole for some experienced, top class performers in the Manchester United squad. While Dier is not necessarily experienced, he is a promising talent and could play a back up role if Van Gaal decides to settle the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling into the centre-back position after a few seasons playing as utility men.
A 20-year-old, relatively unknown, defender from Europe is the type of signing Arsene Wenger has become famous for, though Englishman Dier would join a core of British players at the club. The Arsenal manager has started to build a core of homegrown stars in the Gunners ranks, with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Carl Jenkinson all signing new deals.
Bacary Sagna's departure on a free transfer to Manchester City this summer has left a dearth of experience at right-back and cover at centre-back, so the signing of Dier could be seen as a long-term option and short-term cover for injuries and suspensions.
Liverpool are preparing for a Champions League campaign next season that will be far more draining than the almost exclusively Premier League season last campaign, which was a huge success. Dier would provide extra cover in an area of the team that was vulnerable last term, conceding crucial goals as the season came to a close and their title challenge collapsed.
However, Brendan Rodgers guided the Anfield club to a surprisingly success season and did so by getting the best out of his young players in the squad. Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Jon Flanagan all impressed at one point or another, so there is no reason a player like Dier could not also contribute effectively.
Pochettino must build
Tottenham are looking for a few more positives under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, after a tumultuous last season that saw Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood lose their jobs. The Argentine was extremely impressive in leading a young Southampton side to a creditable eighth place and could be an attraction for Dier.
Youngsters Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Calum Chambers were all regulars for the Saints last season and all were hailed for their performances. So, perhaps a move to White Hart Lane would not be the most prestigious on offer for Dier, but Spurs will be hoping that the potential for him to improve under their new boss can make the difference in any negotiations.