Mauricio Pochettino is remaining tight-lipped on Toby Alderweireld's future, though insists that Tottenham Hotspur are not already planning for life without the defender.
Typically one of the first names on the Spurs team-sheet, Alderweireld was sidelined for three months between November and February and is currently out again after experiencing further pain in his hamstring during a training session last week.
Under contract until 2019 on wages of around £50,000-a-week ($69,429), Tottenham have the option to extend his stay by a further year with the caveat that by doing so they would trigger a clause allowing him to leave for a £25.4m fee in the summer of 2019 per the Evening Standard, who claim that he has long since sought parity with top earners Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane.
Such demands appear to have led to something of an impasse with regards to negotiations, with The Independent suggesting that Barcelona and Manchester United are both monitoring the situation with interest ahead of the summer transfer window as Alderweireld's camp reportedly look for a deal closer in value to the £180,000-a-week agreement penned by Virgil van Dijk upon his arrival at Liverpool in January.
Asked if Alderweireld would still be at Tottenham next season during a press conference held before Wednesday's [28 February] FA Cup fifth-round replay against Rochdale, Pochettino, whose own future has been called into question amid links with Real, persisted with his usual approach of refusing to discuss rumours and joked that chairman Daniel Levy had even received an offer to depart.
"There are a lot of rumours, not only about him [Alderweireld]," he was quoted as saying by football.london. "All the players, the manager, I think Daniel received an offer [for himself] last week. The fans don't need to be worried about Daniel Levy - he's done a fantastic job from when he took charge.
"Then it's a lot of rumours. If we need to talk about the different rumours, a lot of articles in the media, it is impossible to finish the press conference today."
Not preparing for exit
Alderweireld's absence - plus the enforced omission of compatriot Jan Vertonghen - led Pochettino to partner record signing Davinson Sanchez with Eric Dier against Crystal Palace last weekend, with their respective performances in the 1-0 Premier League victory at Selhurst Park subsequently described as "fantastic" by the manager.
However, he is adamant that Tottenham are not preparing for Alderweireld's exit.
"No, no, no. I think it is important to say that all the players are important for myself," he said. "Toby is such an important player for us. Like always I told you in this nearly four years, for me the most important thing is the squad. For me the most important thing is the team and of course players are important, but the collective is so important because when you have some problems you need to win games.
"And if all the players feel important and capable to perform in situations like with the other game, with Eric Dier and Davinson, I think it is a big benefit for the team. But I think all the players are important. We think about today, tomorrow and the next game. We're happy with all the squad, all the players."