Manchester City have earmarked Montpellier midfielder Younes Belhanda as back-up, since their plan to sign Lille playmaker Eden Hazard is proving tougher than expected, according to The Telegraph.
City are unwilling to meet Hazard's high wage demands after the Belgian's agent demanded the 21 year old be placed among the club's highest earners, such as Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez. This situation has forced manager Roberto Mancini to look at other options.
Belhanda has played a key role this season for Montpellier who, against all expectations, are in pole position to win the Ligue 1 title from under the noses of big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
The 22 year old has notched up 12 goals and four assists to guide his club to the top of the league table and has been short-listed for both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards. City are now considering the possible acquisition of the highly rated Morocco international.
Mancini has reportedly been impressed by the midfielder's contribution to Montpellier's success, with the player being compared to former Arsenal and France midfielder Robert Pires by his coach Rene Girard. Belhanda is versatile, with the ability to play on either flank or as a playmaker but is at his best operating behind the lone striker.
Belhanda has been attracting attention from England for some time now. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is apparently a huge admirer of the midfielder and has been following the player's development for years.
"I know Younes well and like him a lot. But I don't want to cause problems. Only Montpellier can decide where he goes," ESPN quoted the manger as saying. The player has previously admitted he would be open to a move to the Premier League.
"My dream is to play in England or Germany. Everybody wants to play in the Premier League and there are some great clubs like Arsenal," the Moroccan said, in an earlier IBTimes UK report.
While Hazard remains City's favoured option Belhanda may well be a smart alternative. The player has two years left on his contract at Montpellier and has been valued at around £10mn, according to the Daily Mail.