Manchester United are reportedly interested in Atalanta midfielder Bryan Cristante in the event that key player and Jose Mourinho favourite Marouane Fellaini walks away from the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.
United triggered a 12-month extension clause in Fellaini's contract at the start of 2017, but the Belgian international is thought to have rejected the offer of a new deal made in September as he considers his first options for what is likely to be the last 'big contract' of his career.
Fellaini is said to want more money than the £120,000-per-week United are apparently offering, but the club is believed to be willing to let the 30-year-old leave rather than meet his demands, in what is fast becoming a game of contract chicken.
Should Fellaini walk, The Sun claims that United will turn to Cristante, a player who has emerged as one of Europe's most promising new midfielders after impressing with Atalanta.
The tabloid suggests that United are 'readying' an offer in the region of £31m for the 22-year-old, who stands at 6ft1in tall and has scored eight goals in all competitions so far this season - three of those have been scored against Everton in the Europa League.
One minor complication is that Cristante is only currently on loan at Atalanta. His parent club is Benfica following a 2014 switch from Milan, where he had made his debut in the Champions League as a 16-year-old three years earlier.
Atalanta are believed to hold a first refusal option on the player to make their loan permanent for around £10m, but could then immediately sell him on to United to pocket a large £21m profit.
A regular for his country at various junior levels, Cristante made his debut for the senior Italy national team only a few weeks ago in October. He, like the rest of the Italian squad, will not be going to the World Cup in summer after a first failure to qualify since 1958.