Pep Guardiola is reportedly the defining factor in the race to sign Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, as Manchester City hold the edge over Liverpool and Chelsea.
The Dutch international has attracted plenty of attention from the Premier League big boys with his performances for the Saints this season, while all three interested parties are in need of defensive reinforcements.
While Liverpool have the joint-worst defensive record of the top eight teams in the English top flight, City have been porous at the back too while Chelsea need to replace outgoing stalwarts and strengthen their squad ahead of a return to Europe.
In turn, it’s pretty clear why Van Dijk has emerged as a top transfer target, and as reported by the Manchester Evening News, it could lead to a bidding war this summer.
It’s claimed that the 25-year-old will fetch a fee of around £50m, with Antonio Conte making him one of his primary targets along with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku this summer.
However, the key point of the story suggests that Van Dijk is ready to reject other offers if Guardiola is keen on signing him, such is his desire to work with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.
With an ageing backline, many of whom who are out of contract this summer, the Spanish tactician needs to significantly bolster his options at the back, and in terms of the two central positions, Van Dijk would be a sensible signing to partner John Stones or Vincent Kompany.
Several names are mentioned in the report for the full-back positions too, and although it’s not clear who Guardiola will prioritise at this stage, he is certainly expected to be busy this summer as he looks to address a key issue in his squad and ensure that City are a stronger unit next season as they look set for a disappointing first campaign under their current boss.