Manchester United and Liverpool are still interested in signing Atletico Madrid playmaker Koke with both clubs considering summer bids, reports AS.
The Spain international had been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League throughout the 2013/14 season. His 13 assists and six goals in La Liga helped Diego Simeone's men to seal a famous title triumph, attracting interest from Europe's biggest clubs as a result.
But the 23-year-old opted to stay at the Vicente Calderon and has carried on his fine playmaking form this term, so far assisting eight goals in 18 starts. He remains a key player for Atletico and Simeone will be glad they raised his release clause last January.
The new contract
Koke agreed a new deal that saw his release clause rise to a considerable £50 million. Atletico Madrid have carved out a reputation as hard bargainers, not allowing Diego Costa or Filipe Luis to leave for less than their agreed clauses; the same is likely to apply to Koke this summer.
Manchester United have the funds to complete such a deal, already breaking the British transfer record to sign Angel di Maria without putting so much as a dent on their incredible balance sheet. Koke had primarily been a target for Louis van Gaal's predecessor David Moyes, but it appears the Dutchman has been left impressed by scouting reports.
That is a big blow for Liverpool, who according to the same report, had already pinpoint Koke as their ideal replacement for Steven Gerrard. Their inspirational captain has already agreed to join LA Galaxy when his contract expires at the end of the season despite his continued influence in the team.
Brendan Rodgers saw Koke as the man to fill his shoes, but the chance to make the move to Old Trafford over Anfield is likely to be a tempting one. Not only will Manchester United be able to pay bigger wages, but they have a bigger chance of playing Champions League football next year.
A player of Koke's quality is unlikely to settle for less than Europe's top tier competition. For Liverpool, their poor form so far this season could cost them the marquee signing they so desperately needed last summer.