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Manchester United remain favourites for the signature of the Croatian wonderkid, who is valued at £10 million by his club, despite talks with City officials this week

EXCLUSIVE
By Greg Stobart

Manchester City have joined the race for Mateo Kovacic – but the Dinamo Zagreb star still favours a move to Manchester United.

Representatives of the 17-year-old attacking midfielder met with City officials earlier this week as the Premier League leaders look to steal a march in their pursuit of one of the hottest properties in Europe.

The talks are understood to have been positive but Goal.com has learned that Kovacic himself would still prefer to move to United, City's bitter rivals. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has made his interest in the Croatian teenager known to both his club and representatives after scouting him several times.

“Manchester City is an exciting project and a wonderful club that interests Mateo,” a source told Goal.com. “But at the moment, he would rather move to Manchester United when the right time comes to leave.

"He is only 17 so right now he needs to play and grow as a player."

Kovacic has shone for Dinamo in the Champions League this season and is already valued at £10 million by the club, who claimed in the summer that Arsenal backed away from a deal because their valuation was too expensive.

He is almost certain to stay in Croatia until at least the end of the season but is keen to move to the Premier League amid interest from both Manchester clubs and Arsenal. European giants including Juventus and Bayern Munich have also been linked with bids for a player who has been compared to compatriot Luka Modric.

Kovacic has been tipped as a future star since breaking into the Dinamo team last year and the Croatia under-21 international's development is being closely monitored by a number of clubs.

He is already first-team regular in the Dinamo Zagreb side and become the club's youngest debutant and goalscorer when he found the net in the 6-0 win over Hrvatski Dragovoljac in November 2010.

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