Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has told officials at the La Liga giants to put the sale of Liverpool target Denis Cheryshev on hold until the club sign a replacement for the 24-year-old winger, according to Spanish newspaper AS.
The Spanish publication reported earlier in June that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has identified Cheryshev as the main target to replace Raheem Sterling should the England international leaves Anfield during the summer transfer window.
AS claimed Liverpool were ready to launch a bid of around €20m (£14.3m, $22.7m) to lure him from the Santiago Bernabeu after the Russia international emerged as one of the sensations of La Liga during his last season on loan at Villarreal, scoring seven goals and providing 11 assists in 40 appearances.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Jese Rodriguez blocking his breakthrough into the Real Madrid first team, Cheryshev later admitted his future at the club looked uncertain, claiming he was likely to make a permanent move to Villarreal unless he received an "irresistible" offer to move somewhere else.
"My future affects several parties, so it is not something easy. I must return to Real Madrid and they are the ones that have to make the first decision [on whether to keep me or selling me]. And once Real Madrid decide, we will see what happen. If no 'irresistible' offer comes through, then my first option would be to stay with Villarreal. I'm convinced that in terms of professional set up and sporting ambition, this club is way ahead of many others," he said, according to AS.
But AS now claims that even though Real Madrid were ready to part ways with the academy star, Benitez may have different plans and has told the club to freeze any negotiations to sell him.
The former Liverpool boss wants a versatile winger to back-up Ronaldo and co, so he would only let Cheryshev go if the club sign a replacement.
Los Blancos have been linked with Sterling and Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus in recent weeks but AS claims the Real Madrid manager may give Cheryshev a chance to prove his worth, meaning if Sterling leaves Liverpool, Rodgers will need to look somewhere else to sign a replacement.