Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have been dealt a blow in their alleged pursuit of Mehdi Benatia after AS Roma manager Rudi Garcia insisted the defender is not for sale at any price.
The London Metro reports how the 27-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League this summer following a series of standout performances in Serie 'A' over the past two seasons.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho has been credited with an interest in bringing Benatia to Stamford Bridge, while Mauricio Pochettino is also believed to be monitoring the player's situation in Italy.
Chelsea sold David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain for a mouth-watering €50 million, and welcomed exciting young Frenchman Kurt Zouma into the first-team fold, but might look to strengthen further in defence before the transfer window closes.
Spurs are yet to make any summer signings since Pochettino arrived at White Hart Lane, but are closing in on the addition of left-back Ben Davies and goalkeeper Michel Vorm from Swansea City, with Gylfi Sigurdsson heading in the opposite direction.
Benatia had been lined up by Tottenham as a possible third acquisition but they could now be forced to turn attention to alternative options after Garcia's recent comments.
Rudi Garcia quotes
"For me, it's clear. He's under contract and he will be a Roma player this season," he told the club's official website when questioned about Benatia's future at Stadio Olimpico.
"Fortunately the president makes a point of speaking with the players, he likes talking with everyone – he hasn't just spoken with Mehdi, he's spoken to them all.
"The only thing is that for you, the chat he had with Mehdi is more interesting than the ones he had with the others.
"In my opinion Mehdi is relaxed, he's motivated and he will play tomorrow. There's no problem."
Man United interest
Manchester United have also been long-term admirers of the Morocco international, and with new manager Louis van Gaal believed to be on the lookout for central defensive reinforcements at Old Trafford they have naturally been mooted as suitors as well.
Having lost both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer, the Red Devils are in need of a new commanding presence to marshal the back line, helping the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans during Van Gaal's first season as a coach in England.
Benatia signed a five-year contract with Roma when he joined them from Udinese in a €13.5 million deal last summer, and so the club are in a strong position when it comes to the negotiating table, and will not be forced into selling.
The stopper remains an integral part of Garcia's team, and will have an important role to play in 2014/15 if the club are to usurp Juventus and win the Scudetto this season.