Manchester United and Arsenal have both been handed fresh hope of securing the signature of highly-rated Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes in the summer after he spoke of his aspirations to one day play in England.
The Daily Mirror carries quotes from the Germany international which reveal the 26-year-old would not consider quitting the Veltins-Arena for another Bundesliga rival because of the strong affinity he feels towards The Miners.
Howedes has been heavily linked with a move away from Schalke, withe Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal both reportedly among the World Cup winner's list of admirers.
Gunners scouts are understood to have made regular checks on the £14 million-rated star over the past 12 months as they look to continue strengthening their back four at the Emirates Stadium.
The January arrival of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreall in an £11.3 million deal has helped fill the void left by the departure of former captain Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona last summer, but further reinforcements are expected in north London at the end of the season.
Article continues below
Meanwhile, the Red Devils are openly on the lookout for new players as Van Gaal continues his ongoing overhaul of the first-team squad at Old Trafford. Mats Hummels has been the most frequent centre-back target linked, but Howedes could now be a more realistic acquisition following his latest comments.
"If I am to leave Schalke one day, I do not want to move clubs within the Bundesliga," he confirmed. "Schalke is too close to my heart to do so.
"A move abroad at a certain time would be worth an experience - England would be my goal," - Benedikt Howedes
"But a move abroad at a certain time would be worth an experience. England would be my goal."
Roberto Di Matteo will be desperate to keep hold of Howedes for the foreseeable future, and will understand that qualification for the Champions League next season could prove decisive in getting the player to commit to the club for the 2015/16 campaign.
Schalke are currently in fourth place in the Bundesliga table, level on points with Augsburg and two behind Borussia Monchengladbach in third spot. Reigning champions Bayern Munich are well clear at the top with 52 points from 21 games, whilst Wolfsburg occupy second on 44 points.
Despite progressing to the knockout stage of Europe's elite club competition this term, Schalke's ongoing participation is now hanging by a thread following their 2-0 defeat against holders Real Madrid in the last 16 first leg in Gelsenkirchen last night.
Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo put Carlo Ancelotti's side in the driving seat ahead of the return fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 10. The result means Real have now won 10 consecutive Champions League matches, so Howedes and his team-mates will have to produce something special if Schalke are going to have any chance of advancing to the quarter-finals.
Barcelona and Juventus are the only sides ever to have won by a two-goal margin in the Champions League at the Bernabeu in the past decade, but Di Matteo's men must do exactly that to reach the last eight for only the third time in their history.
After crashing out against Real Madrid 9-2 on aggregate at the same stage last season there's an argument that progress has been made from 12 months ago, but early elimination could sew the seeds of doubt in Howedes mind which eventually results in his exit, not that Manchester United or Arsenal fans will mind.