The Telegraph reports that Premier League champions Manchester City have been linked to Spanish forward Isco, as Roberto Mancini looks to increase the potency of his attack during the January transfer window.
Isco, 20, has established himself as one of La Liga's brightest young stars since his £4.8m transfer from Valencia to Malaga last year. The Spanish U23 playmaker managed five goals and four assists in 32 appearances in his first campaign at La Rosaleda, and appears likely to improve his tally this season, having already managed three goals and an assist.
City manager Roberto Mancini was recently spotted at a Spanish league match between Malaga and Atletico Madrid, in which Isco played a starring role. It is reported that City's Italian manager is now prepared to trigger the £16.9m release clause in the player's contract, which runs until 2016.
However Malaga are understandably reluctant to let their star player go, particularly in January, and their resolve has only hardened after qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
"Isco is our player and is a very important member of the team. He's not for sale. We want to keep him here," Malaga's sporting director, Mario Armando Husilllos, explained earlier in the year.
Why January Transfer Makes Sense
There are several reasons why Mancini would want to try and force a mid-season move - the most important being the 2013 African Cup of Nations that will see influential midfielder Yaya Toure leave for international duty with the Ivory Coast.
As things stand now, City have Spaniard Javi Garcia and Englishman Gareth Barry to fill the defensive midfield slot but, without Toure, they will rely heavily on Isco's compatriot David Silva for creativity in the attacking midfield role.
Given Samir Nasri's failure to reproduce the form he showed at Arsenal since joining City last summer, and the constant rumours linking Mario Balotelli with a return to Italy, Mancini may feel he needs extra creativity in his squad in the new year.
A move for Isco will almost certainly mean danger for City's former England U21 international Scott Sinclair. The winger signed from Swansea in a somewhat surprising move at the start of the season. However he has seen precious little playing time so far, leading to speculation he is unhappy with his situation and wants to move on.
Sinclair has made only five appearances for the club this season and has yet to either score a goal or register an assist. Nevertheless, City coach David Platt has insisted the youngster is committed to the club and knew what he was getting into when he signed a contract.
"Scott is doing fine. He has done well when he has come on, and when he has started games as well, but we have a big squad and everyone is aware of that," the ex-England international stressed, adding, "When a player comes to this club, they are going to have to accept they are not going to play week in week out. Some will play more than others, but when we spoke to Scott, he knew what he was coming into, that it was a big, big squad."