Manchester United and Manchester City 'Chasing Premier League's Best Defender'

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk.
Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk at Selhurst Park, London, December 3. The Dutchman has been linked with the Premier League's biggest clubs. Bryn Lennon/Getty

Southampton manager Claude Puel continues to insist defender Virgil van Dijk is not for sale in January. Manchester United and Manchester City may test that resolve to breaking point,

According to a report from The Sun, City is leading the chase for the Dutchman, who can lay realistic claim to being the English Premier League's best center back so far this season.

Van Dijk, 25, who signed for Southampton from Celtic in September 2015, would reportedly prefer a move to City ahead of joining up with Jose Mourinho at United.

Both Mourinho and City manager Pep Guardiola need central defenders, Mourinho due to injuries and Guardiola because the one he signed, John Stones, seems to have temporarily lost the ability to defend.

Puel, who does not need to sell, would want £40 million ($50.7 million) for Van Dijk. That seems a fair price considering Stones, the British transfer record for a defender, cost £47 million ($59.6 million) from Everton in the summer.

He would surely get more, too, especially if Chelsea firms up its own interest to create a three-way bidding war at the top of the Premier League. Antonio Conte's side is probably best-placed, alongside Arsenal, for defenders of the teams in the title race. Liverpool, though, could certainly do with a top-class central defender of its own.

Of course, Puel would prefer not to lose such a high-quality player. But Southampton's recent history of selling to accumulate players who are just as good, if not better, suggests he could make gains out of a vast transfer fee. Here, the quiet Frenchman calls the shots.