Middlesbrough will face a futile battle trying to keep Marten de Roon at the club if Manchester United follow up their initial interest in the Dutch midfielder.
United boss Jose Mourinho was linked with a surprise move for the midfielder in the Dutch media on Tuesday night – news that will come as a surprise given the club’s pursuit of both Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic and Monaco star Fabinho.
And although reports of Mourinho’s interest have yet to be confirmed by either club, the Manchester United boss has publicly admitted before that he likes him and will have been given positive feedback from his close friend Aitor Karanka, the former Middlesbrough manager.
But while Middlesbrough are determined to keep their second-most expensive signing of all-time at the Riverside, they will face a losing battle should any club meet the player’s release clause.
Reports in the the Northern Echo claim De Roon’s former club Atlanta have also joined the battle for his signature too, after qualifying for the Europa League and armed with greater spending power after six months of player sales.
Atlanta have raised money by agreeing deal for Roberto Gagliardini, Mattia Caldara, Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti for a combined total of more than £80m this year, and that has given the Serie A club far more money than they would normally have to spend over a summer.
Middlesbrough value the player at nearer the £25million mark these days and the club are hoping to renegotiate his contract to reflect his status and his current market rate.
But if either United or Atalanta follow up their interest, they could land De Roon for just £10million.