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Luan: Why Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd scrambling for a mega bucks January deal

His name is going to dominate the January transfer window. It'll be headlines from December through to deadline day. Gremiowill sell Luan in the New Year - and to the highest bidder.

Romildo Bolzan, Gremio's president, has already stated as much. And he's named his price.

"If anyone comes with less than €30 million, they can't sit at the table," he declared. "We won't even bother having a coffee with them."

€30 million? Sounds a bit steep - until you hear Bolzan's rationale.

Now a gold medalist, Luan saw Brazil teammates Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa sold to Manchester City (€33m) and Inter Milan (&25m) respectively over the summer.

"Luan played better than Gabriel Jesus, played better than Gabigol and for me, he even played better than Neymar.

"He was the best at the Olympics. We know that today Luan is valued higher than these players who have been transferred. We have a price, which takes into account these comparisons.

"The value we ask for is greater (than Gabigol and Gabriel Jesus). If someone wants to sit down with us (to negotiate), they should understand this."

Valencia will be kicking themselves. Eighteen months ago, Los Che had a €10 million offer for Luan rejected. However, Gremio was willing to sell for €2 million more. Valencia refused.

Today, the only chance of Luan playing at the Mestalla is in a visitor's shirt.

And that change of shirt is likely to happen in the New Year.

"If any club makes a proposal, they must know he will only leave on our terms," adds Bolzan. "I have an agreement with his representatives that he will be with us until December."

Chief among those representatives is Jair Peixoto, who has been managing Luan since before that failed offer from Valencia.

This past summer has been Peixoto's busiest. Making it to the public arena were meetings with representatives of Barcelona, Leicester City and Liverpool. An offer of €20 million from a Chinese Super League was fielded and rejected. Both Gremio and Peixoto also managed to resist a €15 million proposal from a British-based investment firm for a 'stake' in the player's registration. For now, Luan's contract is split 70% with Gremio, 15% to investor Celso Rigo and 15% to Luan and Peixoto.

With the transfer window shut, Peixoto is now pouring all his energies into preparing Luan for his January move. It's going to happen. Peixoto and Bolzan settled everything on deadline day last month. The agent was prepared to discuss extending Luan's stay with Gremio - in exchange for a pay-rise. But he left Bolzan's office empty handed in a sure sign the club has decided to cash in on Luan's rising star.

Barcelona took a close look over the summer and had Luan under serious consideration in their 'fourth striker' search. In the end, they went with Paco Alcacer, from Valencia. But not before sending a delegation to Porto Alegre to meet with Peixoto.

Luan's versatility. Being capable of playing across the front three, or in a deeper position, was attractive to Barca coach Luis Enrique and football chief Robert Fernandez. His energy and work-rate off the ball also suggested he'd fit easily into the La Masia culture.

"The quality of Luan is seen on the flanks," says Roger Machado, the Gremio head coach. "He is a player who can switch and change wildly across the field, leaving the defensive line and going to the wings.

"We work collectively as a team, though the individual quality of Luan does make a difference."

During the Barca meeting, an offer of €20 million was discussed, which Peixoto warned would fall well short of Gremio's valuation.

Now, with the Blaugrana having gone with Alcacer and Real Madrid completely out of the picture thanks to FIFA, it's the Premier League which is emerging as Luan's most likely destination.

Leicester did make an attempt, but only after the pact between Peixoto and Bolzan was established. Foxes scouts are convinced Luan's high-energy game would suit the rough-and-tumble of the Premier League. And they're not alone.

Liverpool's chief South American scout Fernando Troiani has confirmed he's been watching Luan since the 23 year-old first was breaking through at Gremio. And Jorge Alvial, Chelsea's former South American talent spotter, will have taken all of his reporting on Luan to his new club, Manchester United, last week.

"I try not to pay attention to the speculation, I will try to understand when they have something concrete, so I stay with a good mind, only focused on Gremio," stated Luan when asked about the prospect of moving to England.

But matters will begin to become more "concrete" as the Brasileiro nears it's end. After his showcase in Rio, Luan is now destined to follow his two fellow gold medalists to Europe - and for the biggest fee.

Odair Hellmann will be delighted. It was he, more than anyone else on Brazil's coaching staff, who pushed for Luan's Olympics selection.

"I thought of bringing Neymar more central and we needed a player who could play with a centralised Neymar, who could play between the lines. The player who had been performing very well, especially in training, was Luan," says Hellmann, who is convinced whether it's the Maracana, Anfield or Old Trafford, nothing will faze Luan.

"He is a player with personality, focused, independent of where he is. What you see in training is what you get on matchday.

"He is a player with great personality. I can see the same Luan playing football in a playground, barefoot, with only his shorts, or in the Maracana in front of 80,000 people."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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