by Francisco Acedo and Kris Voakes
Paris Saint-Germain are set to raise the stakes in the race for Malaga star Isco after the club sent scouts to watch the player in action last weekend.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Monaco have shown an interest in the 21-year-old but the Andalusians have remained steadfast in their refusal not to negotiate below the former Valencia man's €35 million release clause.
Now PSG are ready to usurp fellow suitors after sporting director Leonardo ordered scouts to watch Isco in Malaga's 2-1 Liga victory over Getafe at La Rosaleda on Sunday. The French club's presence could well spark other clubs into action as the chase intensifies for Isco, who has a contract with the Liga outfit until 2016.
The transfer tussle comes on the back of a second season of stand-out performances from the forward, which helped Manuel Pellegrini's side reach the last eight of the Champions League and have seen the side head into the final five games of the league season in the running for a top-four place.
There could be further uncertainty ahead for the Qatari-owned side, with Isco's unclear future mirroring that of his coach. According to reports in the Spanish press this week, Pellegrini has met with Manchester City sporting director Txiki Begiristain over the possibility of replacing Roberto Mancini as coach at Eastlands.
"The only thing we know is that Manuel is happy at Malaga," said Vicente Casado, the club's director general when asked about the reports. "And it is known that everyone appreciates him."
The 59-year-old is contracted to Malaga until June 2015, but the club are expecting interest from Europe's big guns this summer and have been linked with Javier Aguirre, of Espanyol, to replace the Chilean should he be tempted away.
A Malaga source has told Goal there have been no fresh discussions about Pellegrini's future in the wake of the club's successful run in the Champions League, which saw them come within minutes of a place in the semi-finals.