Micheal Keane will spark a bidding war this summer with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton all vying for the highly-rated Burnley and England defender’s services.
Jose Mourinho is eager to bring Keane back to Old Trafford two-and-a-half years since he was sold to Burnley for £2 million by Louis van Gaal, his predecessor as United manager.
United negotiated a clause when they allowed Keane to leave for Turf Moor in January 2015 that entitles them to 25 per cent of any sell-on fee.
If United successfully re-sign Keane, that would effectively mean a discount on a transfer fee that could surpass the £30 million mark given the widespread interest in the 24-year-old centre-half.
Burnley are mindful of the £47.5 million fee Manchester City paid Everton for John Stones, another young England defender, last summer.
Nonetheless, the prospect of having to pay out around £22.5 million for a player they released for a tenth of that cost would be galling for United only 12 months after stumping up a world record £89 million fee for France midfielder Paul Pogba, the former academy graduate who left Old Trafford for Juventus in 2012.
They were situations out of Mourinho’s control and the manager has already gone on record to stress that there are players, including Angel Di Maria, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, that he would never have sold had he been in charge then.
Keane falls into that bracket. Van Gaal took the decision to initially loan the defender to Burnley and then sell him permanently four months later after being unimpressed by what he saw in United’s 4-0 hammering at MK Dons in the League Cup.
Mourinho wants a strong English core at Old Trafford and, in addition to Keane, he is also pursuing Eric Dier at Spurs to complement the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
Where a move for Keane would leave fellow England centre-halves Chris Smalling or Phil Jones is unclear. England left-back Luke Shaw has vowed to fight for his place at United, and Mourinho has been encouraged by the player’s reaction in recent week, but his long-term future at the club remains unclear.
United face strong competition for Keane, though. He is a leading target for Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman at Liverpool and Everton respectively. Koeman had hoped to have a clear run at Keane but the player’s impressive form, and his assured showing on his England debut against Germany last month, has intensified interest.
Mauricio Pochettino is also determined to bring Keane to Spurs, where there could be an interesting dynamic with United. Mourinho wants to sign Dier and is willing to give him the midfield role he seeks after largely being used as a centre-half by Pochettino this season.
If Keane joined Tottenham, it might leave the North London club more willing to sell Dier but that process could be complicated if the Burnley defender returns to Old Trafford. Chelsea and Manchester City are thought to be keeping tabs on developments with Keane.