Roma defender Mehdi Benatia has set his heart on a move to Bayern Munich after his agent held a productive talks with the Bundesliga giants on Monday, according to L'Equipe.
The leading French publication believes that Benatia is desperate to join to Bayern rather than make a late summer switch to the Premier League, which means Manchester United and Chelsea will now almost certainly have to look elsewhere for a new linchpin at centre-back.
Man United in particular have earmarked Benatia as a potential last-ditch signing thanks to a serious shortage of top central defenders available in the transfer market, but their reluctance to make a formal offer looks to have cost them dear.
Bayern make their move
Benatia has repeatedly snubbed contract offers of a bumper pay rise from Roma and is desperate to cash in on a remarkably consistent run of form over the last 12 months, which helped the Giallorossi make an astonishing improvement under Rudi Garcia last term.
The 27-year-old has forced Roma's hand and they will now reluctantly sell their defensive talisman before the transfer window slams shut, but only if their lofty €35m valuation is met.
Bayern are yet to meet Roma's asking price but have already struck a deal over personal terms with Benatia's agent Moussa Sissoko, during a meeting in Munich earlier this week.
Benatia's agent has been very busy
Sissoko, no not the Newcastle United midfielder, put his salary demands for Benatia to Bayern and got a positive response, with Roma already preparing for his exit by enquiring about the availability of Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic.
City are rather surprisingly prepared to let the defender move on in search of a regular starting spot elsewhere, which paves the way for Benatia to get his dream move in the final two weeks of the current transfer window.
Heart set on Bavaria
The Moroccan star looks perfect for Man United when you consider the current defensive deficiencies at Old Trafford, but Bayern utility Javi Martinez's knee injury has essentially scuppered their chances of signing one of the continent's top defenders.
Martinez will spend the next six months on the sidelines after damaging his knee against Borussia Dortmund in the German SuperCup last week, which has forced Pep Guardiola back into the transfer for a quality replacement.
Benatia fits the bill and Bayern are now working hard to reach a compromise with Roma and expect to pay closer to €30m for their final summer signing, which still leaves Man United in particular with the smallest window of hope that talks could yet break down and let them back in the race.
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