By Romeo Agresti & Ben Hayward
Juventus and Inter have stepped up their interest in signing Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, but the Spanish side are determined to hang on to their young forward.
According to Goal, the two Serie A sides are willing to pay around €15 million [£12.5m] for the 21-year-old, whose contract expires in 2015.
Morata, who has also attracted interest from Arsenal, is growing impatient at a lack of first-team opportunities this season and was forced off after taking a blow to his eye in his brief substitute appearance at Osasuna in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night.
It was the latest setback in a run of bad luck for the striker, who has seen both summer signing Gareth Bale and former Castilla team-mate Jese move ahead of him in the pecking order since starting the season as a reserve for Karim Benzema.
However, Madrid know that selling the player would prove a hugely unpopular decision with their fanbase, still irked by the summer sale of Mesut Ozil, and coach Carlo Ancelotti is keen to hang on to the forward.
With midfielder Sami Khedira sidelined, defender Raphael Varane also out and left-back Fabio Coentrao recently recovered from injury, the Italian coach has been forced to work with a small squad this term and, after Gonzalo Higuain left to join Napoli in the summer, Benzema and Morata are now the only recognised strikers left at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ancelotti has other options: Isco started in a false-nine role on Wednesday, while Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale and Jese can all operate in a central position. Nevertheless, the Spanish side vetoed Morata's move to Tottenham as part of the deal to bring in the Welshman in the summer and still see the striker as part of their plans in future - despite his lack of appearances this term.
"I haven't spoken to him about a transfer," the Madrid coach said last week. "There haven't been any enquiries about him but, if any club comes along to ask us about his situation, the answer is simple and clear: he's not for sale, he's not going anywhere."
Morata, meanwhile, left the pitch in tears after taking a blow to the eye on Wednesday. "I am sad because I just wanted to play," he said.
With his contract up in 2015, player and club are set to sit down and negotiate a new deal later this season, while Madrid will only consider selling the youngster if they sign another forward in the summer.
Should that happen, the Spanish side will retain a buy-back option on the young canterano - just as they did with right-back Dani Carvajal, who returned to the Bernabeu last year after a year at Bayer Leverkusen.