With their move for Raphael Varane continuing to drag on, Manchester United are now drawing up alternatives in case that transfer falls through.
The Red Devils are seeking to upgrade their squad as they look to launch a Premier League title challenge to Manchester City next season.
After agreeing a fee with Borussia Dortmund for winger Jadon Sancho, a new centre-back partner for Harry Maguire is now the clear priority for United.
Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly have failed to prove they can be the man to fill that role, with the Red Devils now turning to the transfer market to find Maguire’s partner at the heart of defence.
Their clear top target has been French World Cup winner Varane, who looks set to depart Real Madrid in this summer’s transfer window.
The 28-year-old is entering the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu, with talks over a new deal having failed.
That means that Los Blancos will have to sell him this summer if they want to bring in a substantial fee for the defender.
Varane has excelled since moving to the Spanish capital from RC Lens, winning three La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.
That appears to make him the perfect man to partner Maguire, with United the frontrunners to sign him.
But Madrid have already rejected a £50million bid from the Red Devils and are reportedly holding out for a fee closer to the region of £80m.
With the two clubs so far apart in their valuations, United are now exploring alternative options in case a deal for Varane cannot be completed.
According to AS, one man who is emerging as a clear frontrunner to be that alternative is Sevilla defender Jules Kounde.
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The 22-year-old has impressed in La Liga since moving to Spain from Bordeaux in 2019, becoming a regular in Julen Lopetegui’s side.
The Spanish news organisation state that Kounde would be “more expensive” to buy than Varane, with Sevilla hoping to bring in at least £60m for the defender.
They also claim that there has been interest from several teams, though none have submitted a bid with Sevilla ready to sell if their valuation is met.
United face competition from Premier League rivals Tottenham if they want to sign Kounde, with Spurs having been heavily linked with the Frenchman.
Spurs managing director of football is believed to have made defence his priority in the transfer window.
New manager Nuno Espirito Santo also sees Kounde as a transfer target for this summer, with Toby Alderweireld set to be allowed to leave the club.
In a boost to the Red Devils though, Kounde has repeatedly made clear that his next move will be to a club playing Champions League football, something Spurs will not be able to offer for at least another season.