Bundesliga side looking to bring in Montpellier attacker as Schurrle replacement.
Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen are said to be stepping up their interest in Montpellier attacking midfielder Younes Belhanda, CaughtOffside can reveal.
The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the best young talents in France in the last few seasons, playing a crucial part in Montpellier’s surprise title win of 2011/12.
His form has seen him linked with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham this summer, as he looks almost certain to leave for a bigger club. He has previously admitted to being particularly tempted by moves to either the Premier League or the Bundesliga.
Last month, when asked by French newspaper L’Equipe about his destination next season, he said : “Next season? I don’t know. I have contacts but nothing concrete.
“I want to go to England or Germany. I believe I am made for that football, both physical and technical with a lot of risks.
“My wish is to play in the Champions League next season, but I could sign for a club with big history.”
Arsenal striker and former Montpellier team-mate Olivier Giroud has said he would welcome Belhanda’s arrival at the Emirates Stadium, though it now seems that Leverkusen will attempt to win the race for his signature.
The French international, who scored 12 goals and provided 6 assists this season, is seen by the German club as the ideal replacement for attacking midfielder Andre Schurrle, who is close to agreeing a deal to join Chelsea.
The two clubs have been locked in talks for some time over a deal, with Leverkusen thought to be negotiating for Chelsea youngster Kevin De Bruyne to come in exchange for Schurrle, though new Blues boss Jose Mourinho has expressed a desire to keep the young Belgian in his squad for next season.
This has seen Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypia turn his attention to Belhanda, who could be available for under £10million due to his contract with Montpellier set to expire in a year’s time. His desire to play in Germany as well as Leverkusen being able to offer him Champions League football should give them the edge over Tottenham in securing a deal.
In what could be an ambitious summer transfer window for the third-placed side, they are also reportedly close to bringing in Hamburg youngster Heung-Min Son – another player who has been targeted by Premier League clubs, including Tottenham and Manchester City, as well as Leverkusen’s Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Manager Hyypia should find himself with a good amount of money to spend, as the club look to profit from the sale of Spanish right-back Daniel Carvajal to Real Madrid, and Schurrle to Chelsea when that deal is finalised, leaving them to pursue surprisingly big names in Son and Belhanda.