By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Chelsea will battle it out with Manchester United to land £30million-rated Sadio Mane in the January window, Football Insider sources understand.
Both clubs are in the market for a pacy, wide player who can unhinge defences and the Southampton man is among their top targets.
As revealed by Football Insider last month Mane has rejected a new contract offer to throw his future into doubt ahead of the transfer window.
The Saints striker has been offered a five-and-a-half-year deal by the south coast club to replace his existing agreement, which expires in 2018.
This has alerted the 23-year-old’s admirers, who include Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Blues, who are also targeting Leicester’s Riyah Mahrez, are looking to free up space own their wage bill by off-loading Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado, who is on loan at Juventus after failing to impress at Stamford Bridge since joining from Fiorentina in January.
Mane has scored seven goals for Southampton this season, as well as supplying seven assists, in all competitions and has maintained the fine form of his debut campaign.
The Senegal international is regarded as the Saints’ prize asset and the club are privately adamant he will only be sold when they are ready to do so.
Louis van Gaal has made it clear to United that one of his priorities is to recruit a mobile wide forward capable of getting in behind defences and creating and scoring goals.
United enquired about Mane last summer but Southampton refused to do business at less than £30million.
The Saints do not want to sell Mane in January but could face a fight to keep him next summer when he will be in the final two years of his contract.
Van Gaal has been open about United’s need to have more pace in the wide areas.
“You have seen that now we play with Jesse Lingard, and he is not the most speedy winger in the world,” said the Dutchman earlier this month. “Mata is also not the most speedy winger in the world.
“So first we must address that problem and then we can see how we have to play and how we are in balance with playing with speedy wingers.”