Werder Bremen are to begin preparing for next season by trying to lure highly-valued teenage midfielder Alexander Merkel to the club, reports said Thursday.
Merkel, born in Kazakhstan to Russian parents with German ancestry, is currently contracted to AC Milan, who loaned him to fellow Serie A side Genoa at the start of the season.
Despite his tender years the 19-year-old has been a stalwart of Germany's national set-up since 2007.
According to the German media -- citing a report in Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport -- Bremen sports director Klaus Allofs is keeping a close eye on the teenager with a view to signing him.
"We're keeping a close eye on the (transfer) market. Traditionally, we don't do a lot of deals during the winter break but we also have to think about preparing for next season," said Allofs.
Bremen currently sit fourth in the German Bundesliga ahead of their visit to Schalke this weekend, their final league fixture before the winter break.