Despite news that Paris Saint-Germain's opening bid for transfer target Milan Skriniar has been rejected by Inter Milan, the towering centre-back seems to be edging closer to the exit door at the Serie A club, as PSG rarely miss out on their man.
Powerful, athletic and wholeheartedly committed, Skriniar has been at the centre of Inter's recent renaissance, as they were crowned Italian champions in 2021 and went on to win two more trophies this year.
The Slovakia international has been a paragon of stability in the Nerazzurri's back three - generally alongside regular colleagues Alessandro Bastoni and Stefan de Vrij - and has faced down Europe's best forwards in the Champions League, so is naturally a man in demand.
While Inter do not wish to lose their defensive anchor, whose aerial prowess in both boxes makes him an almost irreplaceable presence, director Beppe Marotta has already indicated that cost-cutting measures - which started last summer, with the sales of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi - must continue.
Indeed, Marotta confirmed on Italian radio that he would prefer to offload a defender such as Skriniar rather than a major attacking asset, like Lautaro Martinez, this summer.
With a series of free transfers and loans, Inter will aim to reshape a squad which narrowly missed out on retaining the Scudetto in May - with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and perhaps Paulo Dybala all signing up for the challenge of usurping city rivals Milan next term.
A long list of high earners and fringe players - including Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Matias Vecino, Andrea Ranocchia and Edin Dzeko - could possibly be leaving, but selling Skriniar should balance the books for another year at least.
The 27-year-old's contract is expiring in 2023, but due to the interest in securing his signature - after all, top-notch defenders are a rare commodity these days - PSG's opening gambit was apparently in the region of €50m (£43.2m); a deal rejected by the Inter board earlier this month.
While the Nerazzurri's supposed asking price of €70m (£60.4m) is perhaps unrealistic, both parties are likely to meet somewhere in the middle, which would see Skriniar emptying his locker at the club's training ground in Appiano Gentile.
Milan Skriniar's replacement will certainly not come from the same price bracket as the Slovakia captain, and it has long been rumoured that Inter are willing to offer Fiorentina €20m (£17.3m) to secure the signature of Nikola Milenkovic.
Reports in Milan suggest that coach Simone Inzaghi and transfer supremo Beppe Marotta have identified the 24-year-old Serbian as their top target to slot into the back three, as a like-for-like trade.
Standing three inches taller than Skriniar, at 6'5, Milenkovic already boasts five years of Serie A experience - racking up 155 appearances to date - and still has potential to improve.
However, any move for the former Partizan Belgrade defender could be complicated by interest not only from abroad, but also from arch-rivals Juventus and Milan.
The Rossoneri may now be ready to rival their second city cousins to capture Milenkovic this summer, after missing out on the signing of Newcastle United-bound Sven Botman.
Torino's Brazilian star Bremer is another man high on the list of potential recruits drawn up by Marotta, following a superb season with the Granata last term.
Indeed, some reports suggest that Inter have already reached a verbal agreement with the 25-year-old centre-back, but are yet to make a formal offer to Torino, as they keep their cards close to their chest until Skriniar's sale is complete.
Under the management of Ivan Juric, the Turin club's defensive displays have been transformed - going from one of Italy's most feeble rearguards to being particularly hard to prise open.
Bremer's totemic form has played a significant part in such improvement, and the former Atletico Mineiro man has been resolute at the heart of Il Toro's back three - a system which he would slot straight into, should he complete a move to San Siro.
Named Serie A's top defender of 2021-22, he fits the bill in many ways, but an asking price of around €40m (£34.5m) is a significant stumbling block preventing a smooth transfer to Inter.
Apparently, Marotta is attempting to negotiate such a fee down by several million euros, or even agree a loan with built-in obligation to buy; spreading the cost of the club's investment over the coming years.
If Bremer is tempted away to the cash-rich Premier League as Inter stall over meeting Torino's demands, and Nikola Milenkovic opts to move elsewhere, where else could Inzaghi and Marotta turn?
Fenerbahce's Kim Min-Jae has been linked to the Nerazzurri as a possible Skriniar replacement, amid interest from Serie A rivals Napoli. The 25-year-old South Korea international is valued at around €15m (£12.9m), so would represent a relatively cut-price option.
However, a lack of experience in Europe could be a concern, given Kim has completed just one season in the Turkish Super Lig so far, following his move from Beijing Guoan last summer.
Though Feyenoord's Marcos Senesi, recently capped by Argentina for the first time, arrived in Europe longer ago - joining the Dutch giants back in 2019 - his chances of a switch to San Siro seem to be fairly slim, despite persistent mentions of Inter interest.
The 25-year-old was forced to choose between Finalissima opponents Italy and Argentina this summer, having been wanted by both nations, and his role in the Eredivisie club's run to the Europa Conference League final did not go unnoticed by the major players in Serie A.
Roma, who defeated Feyenoord in that decider, are current favourites to sign Senesi, and there are also several potential suitors for another defensive option still open to Inter, Merih Demiral.
The Turkey international spent last season on loan at Atalanta, who have since exercised the option to sign him permanently from parent club Juventus, and he has a comparable profile to that of Skriniar.
Though Inter no longer have the difficulty of buying directly from their bitter rivals, clubs including Napoli, Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur are all interested in offering La Dea an instant profit on their deal with Juve, which could push the price of a deal higher.
Against the odds, another loanee will be hoping the answer to Inzaghi's needs could lie within, as Belgian defender Zinho Vanheusden recently returned to the club at the end of an injury-plagued spell with relegated Genoa.
More likely, though, is his departure once more for Liguria, with Spezia one of several teams linked to a loan move for the product of Inter's primavera.
Sampdoria, Udinese and Verona are other parties keen on agreeing a season-long switch, and the 22-year-old may have to prove himself at one of the league's lesser lights before earning a shot at the big time in Milan. body check tags ::