Manchester United have been dealt a blow in their alleged pursuit of Axel Witsel after the Zenit St Petersburg midfielder revealed that he's in talks with Juventus about a summer transfer.
TalkSPORT reports how the Belgium international has long been linked with a prospective switch to Old Trafford, but for whatever reason a Premier League move has never transpired.
Louis van Gaal has been credited with an interest in bringing Witsel to the Theatre of Dreams, but the Red Devils boss' hopes of securing his signature are now fading following confirmation that the 26-year-old has held discussions with the Serie 'A' champions.
Article continues below
The former Benfica man played a starring role as Zenit won the Russian title this season, but despite the success he's enjoyed under Andre Villas-Boas he looks set to depart the Petrovsky Stadium when the transfer window reopens.
"I'm 26, the best age to try a new experience," Witsel explained in an interview with Sudinfo. "I've always said that I didn't want to leave Zenit without lifting the league title, and that's done. My favourite league? I don't have one, my goal is to move to a top club in a top league."
Article continues below
Asked specifically about rumours linking him with a transfer to Italy, Witsel admitted that he would be interested in linking up with Massimo Allegri in Turin, but first the two clubs must reach agreement over a fee.
"Juventus? There have been discussions, and they're ongoing," he added. "They're a fantastic team with a great project, to become again what they were in the days of [Zinedine] Zidane and [Pavel] Nedved.
"The contact is ongoing, both with me and Zenit. It's a destination that could be suitable for me."
That news will come as a bitter blow to Van Gaal, who is on the lookout for midfield reinforcements at Manchester United ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.
Michael Carrick endured an injury plagued season and cannot be relied upon as regularly, and Witsel would be a decent replacement for the veteran England international when he finally calls time on his career.
Daley Blind and Ander Herrera both performed well during their debut seasons in England's top-flight, but the former Netherlands head coach is still keen to strengthen that area of his squad with another signing this summer.
Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin has been mentioned as a possible target, but it's unclear whether Red Devils chiefs would be willing to meet the south coast club's £25 million valuation of the France international.
However, if Witsel does indeed sign for Juventus then the Premier League giants will be forced to consider alternative options, so Van Gaal must move quickly in order to not miss out completely.
Manchester United fans: Do you think Axel Witsel would be a good signing for Louis van Gaal to make this summer? If so, how much would you be willing to pay to secure his signature? Have your say below...