Atletico Madrid have confirmed that they are interested in taking Yoann Gourcuff to Spain on loan – but cash-strapped Lyon will not let the France international playmaker go cheaply.
Atletico, currently second in La Liga, see Gourcuff, 26, as a player who can boost their bid to secure Champions League football next season.
The Europa League holders want to take the midfielder on a six-month loan before making any permanent move, and are balking at the Ligue 1 club’s demand of €3 million for the loan deal.
"Atletico are indeed interested in Yoann Gourcuff," Nikola Franco, the agent commissioned by the Liga club, told L'Equipe.
"However, the club will not discuss a paid loan with Lyon. The only solution as far as Madrid are concerned is a free loan with a purchase option at the end of the season."
The clubs are yet to get as far as discussing how much that option would be, but Lyon would be unlikely to recoup the €22 million they paid Bordeaux for Gourcuff, then the rising star of French football, in summer 2010.
Gourcuff inspired Bordeaux to the Ligue 1 title under Laurent Blanc in 2008-09, but has failed to scale those heights at Lyon, where he is the highest-paid player.
The former Rennes and AC Milan man - who recently turned down a move to Fenerbahce, according to reports in the French media - is under contract at Lyon until 2015.
Lyon's apparent willingness to discuss a move for a player whom club president Jean-Michel Aulas has often publicly supported marks a shift in policy provoked by financial necessity.
Earlier in the season, Aulas revealed that the club needed to raise €28 million to balance its books, and would do this through player sales.
However, although Schalke have declared an interest in Michel Bastos, only Fabian Monzon has left the club this month, securing a loan move to Fluminense.
This week, Aulas was reported as saying Gourcuff would not be leaving Stade de Gerland. "He'll certainly stay till June," he told the Italian website tuttomercatoweb.com. "We'll talk about his value after that, but he's been injured, so it's not the moment to talk about a transfer."
After suffering a knee ligament injury two games into the season, Gourcuff has struggled to regain full fitness and has played only nine top-flight matches this term.