After missing out on Sergio Ramos and Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester United are now being urged to pip Chelsea to the signing of Everton centre-back John Stones.
The 21-year-old has reportedly asked to leave the Toffees in order to fulfil his dreams of playing in the Champions League, but Roberto Martinez remained coy when questioned over his star defender's future.
Louis van Gaal has repeatedly dropped hints about landing a defender, yet with Chris Smalling and Daley Blind impressing so far, the Dutchman could allow Chelsea a free run at the in-demand youngster.
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And the ex-Bayern Munich and Barcelona manager may be wise to do so given the club's past history with signing English centre-backs for large sums of money.
Rio Ferdinand was the one exception, becoming one of United's greatest defenders under Sir Alex Ferguson, but the troubles of Phil Jones and Smalling carry stark reminders of the danger of overpaying for potential rather than proven talent.
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The latter finally is beginning to look the part nearly six years on from his move from Fulham, having found emerging from Ferdinand's shadow a difficult task in recent seasons, though only time will tell whether he has finally matured or whether it is yet another false dawn.
Ferguson tipped Jones to become one of United's best ever players shortly after his retirement, in a move that has backfired spectacularly given the nature of the former Blackburn defender's performances.
Inconsistency and a capacity for the peculiar still mars his game, and he faces an uphill battle to get into the starting 11 with Marcos Rojo, Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair and Jonny Evans all jostling for the same position.
Van Gaal is in the second season of a three-year deal, and whilst he admires Stones, will know he does not have the time to gamble on an inexperienced if talented defender.
That is why he wasted countless time pursuing Ramos and little chasing Otamendi, because the leadership qualities of the Real Madrid defender would have added experience and strength in equal measure.
Pepe was reportedly an alternative - another whose knowledge of the game surpasses that of Stones - but Madrid again held firm to keep their man.
Chelsea look the favourites but, if United get their target, they can offer no guarantees as to whether he will be a success or just another Jones mistake.
Should Manchester United make a move for John Stones? Let us know below!
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