Middlesbrough are in pole position to sign Sunderland midfielder Paddy McNair after having a bid in excess of £5million accepted for the player.
The 23-year-old is believed to have made clear that he saw his future elsewhere following Sunderland’s relegation to League One.
McNair, while on international duty last month, suggested that he wanted a return to the Premier League.
Championship side Middlesbrough, however, have moved ahead in the race for his signature after Brighton cooled their interest.
Boro boss Tony Pulis is thought to have been impressed by McNair’s form at the end of last season, with the Northern Irishman scoring four goals in five games. Pulis is in the market for a central midfielder after Muhamed Besic returned to Everton at the end of his loan spell.
McNair is deemed to be a more viable option financially and his goalscoring threat offers a different dimension to his current options in midfield.
While McNair may favour a move to the Premier League, sources on the south coast have suggested that Brighton have cooled their interest in the wake of Middlesbrough’s bid, having had two offers rejected for the player.
Brighton manager Chris Hughton wants a replacement for Steve Sidwell, who was released earlier this summer, but their valuation of McNair is thought to be significantly lower than both Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Brighton’s last bid for McNair was understood to be around £3.5million.
Wolves are another club credited with an interest in McNair but there has been no bid from the Premier League new boys.
Both Jack Ross and Stewart Donald were keen to keep McNair for a League One challenge next season but his desire for a move has forced their hand.
Ross said last week: “Certainly from a football point of view as a manager I think it goes without saying that I’d love to have him in my squad.
“Realistically, I have to plan for both scenarios because you never know, and I know like most players they are keen to play as high as they can.”