Manchester United have emerged as surprise admirers of Paris Saint-Germain star and reported Barcelona target Marco Verratti.
The midfielder had been the subject of intense media speculation after the La Liga giants attempted to prise him away from the French capital, but reports now suggest that United have entered the race to sign him.
Tuttomercatoweb has alleged that the Red Devils had sent scout Jose Mayorga to watch Verratti in the flesh throughout last term, and that he has already held talks with the Italy internationa's team about a move to the Premier League.
United boss Jose Mourinho wants to add a big-name signing to his midfield options after strengthening his defence and attack with the arrivals of £35m Victor Lindelof and £90m Romelu Lukaku from Benfica and Everton respectively.
The Portuguese manager has already been rebuffed in his advances for £60m-rated Tottenham ace Eric Dier and Chelsea's Nemanja Matic, but still supposedly holds out hope of securing Monaco's Fabinho.
That hasn't stopped Mourinho from instructing his club from enquiring about Verratti's availability though, despite the 24-year-old admitting that he was happy to remain at the Parc de Princes after gossip had all-but-confirmed he was set to join Barcelona.
Verratti was forced to apologise to PSG's fanbase for comments made by his agent over a rumoured world-record £132m transfer to Catalunya earlier in the summer transfer window,
His apology, posted to PSG's official Twitter account, read: "I saw what my agent said and just want to say that they are not my words at all.
"I want to apologise to everyone at the club, the president, the fans and the players. ... I have become the player I am today also thanks to the club, and that's why I'm deeply sorry."
In spite of that statement - an apology some Barca fans believed Verratti was told to issue or else - reports in the UK believe United could still prise Verratti away from PSG before the window slams shut.