Manchester United's hopes of replacing David de Gea with Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic have been dealt a blow after Mark Hughes confirmed that the Potters have already started negotiations with the Bosnia and Herzegovina international over a new long-term contract.
The 27-year-old has been one of the most consistent custodians in the Premier League in recent years, and his impressive form at the Britannia Stadium has not gone unnoticed by a number of high-profile suitors.
According to the Daily Mail, both Manchester clubs have monitored Begovic and so too have Spanish giants Real Madrid, with senior officials at the Santiago Bernabeu considering the Stoke stopper as a possible successor to club captain Iker Casillas.
Of course, De Gea has also been heavily linked with a potential return to La Liga, and that's why Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal has been looking out for prospective candidates for the No.1 spot at Old Trafford moving forward.
With just over 12 months to run on his existing contract Begovic could be available at a relatively cheap price, however Hughes has made clear his intentions to convince the former Portsmouth man to put pen to paper on an extension.
"We want to be a team that’s consistently in the top ten," enthused the Welshman after his side's 2-1 victory over Southampton at the weekend, which took Stoke up to ninth place in the table.
"To be able to do that you need key players in key areas of the field and obviously goalkeeper is a key position in any good team and Asmir has been exceptional for us for a long time now."
Begovic turned in another impressive display against Saints on Saturday, keeping the hosts in the game after Ronald Koeman's men dominated first half proceedings.
However, thanks to the Bosnian's brilliance between the sticks the visitors went in at half time only one goal to the good, and second half strikes from Mame Biram Diouf and substitute Charlie Adam secured all three points for the Potters.
When asked about Begovic's contractual situation moving forward, Hughes revealed that talks are already underway and that a decision would be made about his long-term future at the end of the season.
"We’re talking and those talks are going to be concluded in the summer. Hopefully they are going to be concluded in our favour."
What does the future hold?
Signing a new contract will make it very difficult for Manchester United, Manchester City or Real Madrid to sign Begovic without paying a significant fee that reflects not only the quality but also the level of consistency he's shown over the past few years.
Manchester United fans: Is Asmir Begovic good enough to replace David de Gea if he leaves Old Trafford? Who is most likely to sign him in the summer? Have your say below...