After earning a return to the Champions League, this summer was always going to be a busy one in the transfer market for Manchester United. And it appears that their activity is now cranking up a gear with news that one of their leading targets, Sergio Ramos, has informed Real Madrid of his desire for a move.

Already having signed Dutch starlet Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven, much of the news surrounding Manchester United in recent weeks has centered on their attempts to keep goalkeeper David de Gea out of the clutches of Real Madrid. With the player thought keen to return to the Spanish capital and having just a year remaining on his contract, that may be a hopeless task. But they are receiving increasing encouragement in their attempts to secure a top player in return.

Ramos, one of Real Madrid’s longest-serving players and the club’s vice captain, has just two years remaining on his contract and has become disgruntled by negotiations to extend his deal. And now multiple sources, including The Guardian and Madrid-based sports daily AS, are reporting that at a meeting on Wednesday the defender informed the club’s general director of his desire to leave, with the club responding that they would listen to offers.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has identified the center of his defense as a key area to improve ahead of a return to the Champions League and the attempt to mount a genuine challenge for the Premier League title. Having been frustrated in the long-running attempts to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels, the chances of prizing away Ramos from the Bernabeu looked slim. Yet, while Madrid still appear to be highly reluctant sellers, there is now real hope, especially due to the Spanish giants’ desire to get De Gea.

Plenty of speculation has already concentrated on what United will do if and when De Gea does depart. Much of that has focused on Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, although in recent days Ajax’s Jasper Cillessen has emerged as a possible target. Van Gaal knows the 26-year-old well, having made him his first-choice goalkeeper while in charge of the Netherlands. And, according to the Daily Mirror, United think they can land him for £20 million. That would seem a high price for a goalkeeper yet to play in one of Europe’s top leagues, and, it would remain to be seen whether Cillessen would be the automatic number one at Old Trafford, or if he would have to compete with Victor Valdes, who was signed on a free transfer in January.

Manchester United’s reported targets do not end there. There have also been fervent rumors claiming that there is a continued strong interest in Bayern Munich’s experienced midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, including from the BBC. The 30-year-old World Cup winner’s future at Bayern is up in the air as he enters the final year of his current deal, and, like Cillessen, he has a previous relationship with Van Gaal. It was the Dutch coach who moved Schweinsteiger into a central midfield role when he was in charge of the Bundesliga side between 2009 and 2011. Schweinsteiger may, though, be reluctant to leave a club he has been at his entire career just a year before the European Championships.

Elsewhere, there have been doubts expressed over whether Manchester United will hold onto their biggest signing of last summer. Ángel di María became the club’s record transfer when arriving for close to £60 million from Real Madrid, but endured a tough first season at Old Trafford and spent the latter part of it out of the starting lineup. Still, speaking while at the Copa America with Argentina, Di María has stressed that, while losing his place in the team was difficult, he has no plans to leave.

“No, because I'm not thinking like that,” he told Argentinean publication Olé. “In Madrid there were times when I was whistled around the stadium but I faced up to it and then it turned around. I like to take deal with situations head on when they are difficult, and demonstrate what have been doing for several years.”