Atletico Madrid are increasingly optimistic in their pursuit of Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso after racing ahead of Arsenal and Real Madrid in the race to sign the Spain star.
With the departures of club captain Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez this summer, Atletico have identified Hermoso to fill the void, hoping to add him to Jose Giminez, Stefan Savic and the recently acquired Felipe Monteiro from Porto, to form a defensive quartet Diego Simeone is able to build a solid foundation from.
Having been dissuaded from pursuing Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax or Ruben Dias of Benfica due to their hefty price tags, Atletico are focusing their attention on the Spanish international, according to Marca, who was impressive for an Espanyol side last season which finished seventh, and go into the Europa League qualifiers for next season.
A key reason for Atleti's optimism is the increasing belief that Real Madrid will not exercise their option to repurchase Hermoso - a youth product of Los Blancos - which is estimated to be around £7m. Instead, it is likely that they will be satisfied with receiving 50% of the transfer fee for Hermoso, which was agreed by Espanyol upon his contract signing.
Espanyol, however, will not look to let him go cheaply, having already turned down an offer by Paris Saint-Germain, who would not reach his estimated £35m release clause. Atletico will also look to pay less money than what Espanyol expect for Hermoso, and have the advantage of the 23-year-old's contract expiring only next summer.
Hermoso, therefore, is able to leave on a free only in January 2020, and so Espanyol will look to recoup some funds for the player this summer. In addition, it is reported that Hermoso and Atleti have already agreed terms - estimated to be around £3m per season - therefore making the transfer increasingly likel