Manchester United’s search for a central defender in the January transfer window has taken another twist, with the club now briefing that they weren’t the team to have a bid of £26 million rejected for Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi.

It has been widely reported that Louis van Gaal has made reinforcing his defense a priority this month as he seeks to nail down a place in the top four in the second half of the season. And, earlier this week, it was thought that a serious move had been made toward that aim. Valencia claimed that they had turned down an offer for their Argentina international from an unnamed club, which according to La Liga expert Guillem Balague, and others, was the Premier League giants. On Wednesday, however, the Manchester Evening News were among the publications informed that Old Trafford was not the source of the bid.

Otamendi, 26, who is in his first season at Valencia, would, in truth, have been a surprising signing for United at such a lofty price. Not as surprising, though, as the deal suggested by The Sun. The tabloid reports that Manchester United are also interested in Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos, but have been quoted the laughable price of £112 million by the French champions to make the transfer happen. The Brazilian, who was signed for close to £30 million just 18 months ago, has started less than half of PSG’s Ligue 1 matches this season following the arrival of David Luiz. While Marquinhos, 20, is regarded as having massive potential, there is clearly little chance of a transfer happening unless PSG provides a reasonable asking price.

Any sort of deal still appears unlikely, however, with Manchester United widely believed to still be holding out for Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels. It remains, though, a transfer that has considerably more chance of happening in the summer rather than in January. The German World Cup winner has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to Dortmund, and only this week stated that even the struggling Bundesliga club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League wouldn’t cause him to become discontented. Dortmund, too, will be loathed to lose such a key player midway through the season. Admittedly, their stance may well not change considerably in the summer, when they may lose Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan.

Manchester United’s reported list of defensive targets does not end there, however. Reports in the past 10 days have also credited Van Gaal with an interest in Athletic Bilbao’s 20-year-old center-back Aymeric Laporte. Having become a regular in La Liga last season, the France Under-21 international has begun to seriously catch the eye this campaign. Prizing him away from San Mamés, though, promises to be an arduous task.

With their policy of only fielding Basque players, Athletic are notoriously reluctant to sell their players, as they proved when resisting the departure of Ander Herrera to Manchester United. In the end, United had to pay up Herrera’s buy-out clause, and they will likely have to do the same if they are intent on securing Laporte. That would require a huge outlay, with Athletic increasing his clause last summer to 42 million euros (£32 million).