Manchester United's hopes of bagging Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen have taken a big leap after the Dutch giants were dumped out of the Champions League at the third round qualifying stage.
According to the Daily Telegraph, United have an agreement in place with the Netherlands outfit to sign Cillessen should David de Gea complete a move to Real Madrid before the transfer window closes.
The Netherlands international recovered from a calf strain to play in both legs of Ajax's Champions League Champions League third round qualifier against Austrian side Rapid Vienna. However the 26 year old was unable to prevent his side suffering a 3-2 home defeat in Tuesday's second leg, a result that sent the Dutch behemoths out 5-4 defeat on aggregate.
Ajax's elimination acts as a boost in itself for United, who will enter Friday's draw for the final play-off round knowing the four-time winners of the competition have been crossed off the list of potential opponents.
Regardless of Ajax's elimination, Cillessen's participation in the qualifying stages of the tournament has no bearing on his eligibility for another club in the group stages.
Uefa rules state: "As a rule, a player may not play in a Uefa club competition (i.e. Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League, but not Uefa Super Cup) for more than one club in the course of the same season.
"Exceptionally, however, a player who has been fielded in the first, second, third qualifying round or the play-offs of the Uefa Champions League or Europa League is entitled to play in the Uefa Champions League or Uefa Europa League for another club as from the group stage."
Had Ajax progressed into Friday's final play-off draw and Cillessen played in both games he would still be eligible to play for United in the group stage.
But their elimination could hasten his exit from the Amsterdam Arena, after he recently told Dutch daily De Telegraaf he believes he would be ready to make the adjustment.
When asked if he felt the step up to the Premier League would be too much for him, Cillessen told the Dutch newspaper: "I don't think so. Five years ago, when I was playing for NEC [it would have been] because NEC to United is a very big step."
United will learn their European fate on Friday at the play-off draw in Nyon in Switzerland. They are the top-seeded club in the final qualifying round, where they have been joined by Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen. United's biggest threats come from Sporting Lisbon, Lazio and Monaco, the latter sealing their place with a thumping 7-1 aggregate win over Young Boys on Tuesday 5 August.
The Telegraph suggest Cillessen is van Gaal's preferred option to fill the void should De Gea leave the club this summer, despite the recent arrival of Argentina international Sergio Romero.