Manchester United are finally ready to admit defeat in their long-term chase of World Cup winner Mats Hummels, but that doesn't mean that Borussia Dortmund's resolve won't be tested by a January offer for one of their top stars.
Hummels was viewed for a long time as the man who could become United's new defensive linchpin, but the Dortmund skipper is very happy where he is and made that emphatically clear in a wide-ranging interview earlier this week.
Louis van Gaal is acutely aware that the Red Devils still badly need to sign a new centre-half and must change tact now Hummels has pledged his long-term future, turning his attention to his centre-back partner Neven Subotic.
That is according to The Express, who believe that Subotic is on a small shopping list of potential transfer targets that also still includes Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar.
Case for the defence
United believe that Subotic now represents a far more attainable target than Hummels, perhaps because his Dortmund contract runs out at the end of next season.
Subotic has been a fantastic servant for Dortmund over the last six years and formed a tremendous partnership with Hummels in that time, but until today at least has largely managed to avoid speculation over his future despite that fine form.
The Serbian international is probably more dispensable than Hummels thanks to the presence of Sokratis Papastathopoulos at Dortmund and would be significantly cheaper, but it remains to be seen if Jurgen Klopp's side are actually willing to lose a first-team regular in the middle of the season regardless of price.
Vlaar in contract talks
The 26-year-old has also moved up the pecking order on United's January shopping list because Villa captain Vlaar has begun negotiations over a new contract with the Midlands side.
Vlaar's current deal expires at the end of the campaign and the physically imposing defender has a strong relationship with Van Gaal thanks to his time in charge of the Netherlands, but Villa remain confident that he'll stay loyal and pen fresh terms.
That means United stepping up their interest in Subotic now looks a perfectly plausible possibility, so expect Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp to have a tough time on his hands persuading yet another key player to stay put when the transfer window reopens.
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