Manchester United have been dealt a blow in their alleged pursuit of Kevin Strootman after the AS Roma midfielder revealed that he'd prefer to join Real Madrid or Barcelona.
In an interview with Dutch publication Voetbal International, the 24-year-old spoke about his desire to test himself at either the Santiago Bernabeu or Camp Nou, two clubs that he says every player dreams of representing.
The Holland international recently made his long-awaited comeback from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out of the World Cup during the summer, and despite his extended spell on the sidelines has been heavily linked with a move away from Stadio Olimpico in the New Year.
Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal has been credited with an interest in bringing the former PSV Eindhoven star to Old Trafford, but it looks as though he'll face a fight to convince the player to move to the Premier League after his latest comments intimate a wish to swap Serie 'A' for La Liga.
"Of course, everyone wants to go to Barcelona or Real Madrid, but they don't come quickly to the Eredivisie," Strootman explained. "Sometimes there is the odd exception, but mostly the rule is that these types of clubs scout at a higher level.
"I don't see Roma as an intermediate step but I think a player who performs well here will earn a reputation at the top level more quickly. In these types of competitions you learn a lot."
Reading between the lines it looks as though Manchester United would be Strootman's third choice destination, even with the opportunity to work with Van Gaal - a coach he knows well from the Netherlands national team set-up - again.
The £32 million valuation that Roma have slapped on Strootman's head appears to have done little to deter the Red Devils from trying to lure him to England in January, but they might be forced to consider alternative options when the transfer window reopens if either Real Madrid or Barcelona make an offer in 2015.
What's clear is the fact that Strootman remains happy in Italy playing in Rudi Garcia's team at the moment, but given the size and profile of the club there is a certain inevitability that he will leave the Giallorossi sooner or later.