Manchester City may have finally found the man to end their defensive worries having reportedly identified Toby Alderweireld as a summer transfer target.
The Belgian defender is currently on loan at Southampton from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid but that hasn't prevented City's interest, according to the Daily Mail.
Having struggled for a long-term partner for captain Vincent Kompany, City are still in need of defensive reinforcements, and Kompany's fellow Belgian could be the man to solve the problem position once and for all.
However, any potential summer move won't come without complications, as the 25-year-old's year long stint on the South Coast involves a number of stipulations that could derail a move to the Etihad.
Having signed the defender on a season-long loan at the start of the season, Saints have the option to make the move permanent for £6.8 million should they wish, and given his form at St Mary's, they're likely to look to take up that option.
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Ronald Koeman's men might not get it all their own way though, with Atletico having installed a clause of their own in the loan arrangement. The Spaniards can cancel the £6.8 million option for just £1.5 million, in a move that would allow them to instead sell to the highest bidder.
Despite having not featured since injuring a hamstring during a 1-0 win at Manchester United in March, Alderweireld has been in impressive form this season. During his 16 league appearances the former Ajax talent has helped Southampton to the league's best defensive record. In 25 games they've conceded just 17 goals, four fewer than leaders Chelsea.
With over 40 Belgian caps to his name, the tough defender is far more experienced than Eliaquim Mangala, and has far more football left in him than the aging Martin Demichelis.
That City are being linked with a central defender is evidence of Eliaquim Mangala's difficult debut season. Having been signed from Porto for £32 million last summer, the Frenchman was expected to be the long-term partner Kompany needed, but has struggled since an impressive debut.
With Kompany having suffered an injury-hit season, Mangala has often found himself partnered by Demichelis, and has even been dropped in favour of the Argentine when Kompany has been available.
Now, with City having not kept a clean sheet in their previous ten league and cup games, the club's hierarchy may look to act in the summer.
Should Atletico exercise their right to end Southampton's option to buy, a bidding war could commence. Despite having had their spending curbed by Financial Fair Play regulations, City would be favourites to come out on top.
Alderweireld set Atletico back roughly €7 million when signing from Ajax in 2013, but that price will surely rise with him having gained a La Liga winners medal and a year of Premier League experience since.
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