Lazio leading chase for Van der Vaart

Lazio are favourites to seal the signing of Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart in January, according to reports.

The Dutchman - who has made 33 league appearances for the Bernabeu outfit since arriving from Hamburg - appeared surplus to requirements this summer, following the club's £200 million spending spree on Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol.

A host of major European outfits, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Aston Villa were linked with moves for the midfielder.

However, he was eventually spared the chop in the Spanish capital, after Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were sold to Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively to help balance the Madridistas' books.

Unsurprisingly, Van der Vaart has struggled to get many minutes in Real's stellar midfield so far this season, with a 15-minute cameo against Villarreal his only appearance out of Real's six competitive outings.

And, according to Spanish daily AS, Lazio president Claudio Lotito has already identified the playmaker - who has 71 caps for Holland - as one of his January targets, and is hopeful of agreeing a deal with Real for a fee in the region of €8 million.