Leicester City's hopes of keeping N'Kolo Kante at the club next season have taken a hit after reports in Spain suggested Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has earmarked the France international as his new Claude Makelele. Both AS and Marca claim Zidane has informed club president Florentino Perez of his desires, and Los Blancos could trigger the player's €25m (£20.6m, $27.6m) release clause in the near future.
The press focus on Real Madrid's transfer plans for the summer has been on their battle with Manchester United to sign Paul Pogba, with the Champions League winners identifying the Juventus man as a new Galactico.
However, Zidane is also understood to be seeking a hard-working midfielder in the style of Casemiro. Zizou played alongside Makelele in his Galactico days at the Santiago Bernabeu, and believes having a player with that profile in an offensive team like Real Madrid is essential for keeping the club's balance.
The use of Casemiro rather than James Rodriguez or Isco was one of Zidane's major changes after taking over from the ill-fated reign of Rafa Benitez, as his side turned a poor start to the season around to claim the Champions League crown.
Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Manchester United have all been linked with the Frenchman in recent times. However, AS reports Real Madrid could have an advantage over the latter two as his €25m release clause is not valid for Premier League sides.
Furthermore, Los Blancos would be ready to tempt him with a lucrative pay rise, much higher than the €1.7m a season (after taxes) he receives at the King Power Stadium.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger recently admitted his admiration of Kante, predicting Leicester would face a battle to keep him away from Europe's biggest clubs in the coming transfer window.
"It is very difficult to talk about that at the moment. Kante is on the list of many clubs. It is an area where we have many players," Wenger said to BEin Sport.
"We will see what happens in the next two or three weeks. It looks like Leicester have bought a player from Nice [Nampalys Mendy] with similar qualities to Kante, so whether they envisage losing him or not I don't know. If you ask 100 people in the street if they want Kante to play [for France] you will get 100 saying yes. He has done the job in one or two games and I am not surprised. I said two months ago this boy will play the whole European Championship. We know him well from Leicester now and I am not surprised that he is starting. He has been one of the revelations of the French team."