Manchester United are on the verge of sealing a £25m deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, according to the Daily Star.
Laporte has attracted serious attention from a string of top European clubs, including both Arsenal and Chelsea, but sources in Spain believe that United moved first when the January transfer window opened and the deal is now "80% done".
The 20-year-old's signature would certainly represent something of a coup for the Red Devils, who are still searching for a new defensive linchpin to spearhead Louis van Gaal's search for success at Old Trafford.
Long-term investment on the cards
United fans had hoped to see an established world-class centre-back arrive at the Theatre of Dreams this month, but persuading clubs to part with the likes of Mats Hummels or Diego Godin in the middle of the season looks almost impossible.
Red Devils transfer chiefs are prepared to put those kind of protracted chases on the backburner for the time being, viewing Laporte as a potential future superstar who is ready to make an instant impact in the Premier League.
United allegiance sweetens the deal
Van Gaal's change of heart when it comes to a big January has no doubt been helped by Laporte's desire to play for United one day, with the French youth international described as a 'boyhood' Red Devils fan by the Star.
The Dutchman has been hugely frustrated with his under-performing defenders at various junctures of the campaign and Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Southampton was another prime example of United's need to strengthen in that position.
Laporte is another youthful option but already has Champions League experience and the best part of 100 senior appearances under his belt for Bilbao, making a considerable immediate improvement on the likes of Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett.
United believe they can get a deal to sign the starlet over the line before the transfer window slams shut, but it remains to be seen if his signature is enough to appease frustrated Red Devils fans.
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