West Brom were today reaching crunch time in the battle to sign Scott Sinclair with Southampton ready to step in if his move to the Hawthorns falls through.
The Baggies remain in talks with Manchester City over a deal for the former Chelsea and Swansea winger, who remains head coach Steve Clarke’s No 1 transfer target.
But reports from Hampshire this morning claimed the big-spending Saints are considering stepping up their interest – and are prepared to offer the 24-year-old a permanent switch to St Mary’s.
And that suggestion will alarm Clarke, who has already seen the Baggies miss out on his other top summer target, former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou.
Sources in Manchester claim the Baggies have agreed the season-long-loan element of Sinclair’s proposed switch to The Hawthorns, which is the player’s preferred destination.
But they remain in negotiations over the terms of a permanent transfer next summer, which City are likely to insist on as part of any deal.
Etihad Stadium officials are keen to recoup the £6m they paid Swansea for Sinclair a year ago and are in no rush to lower their asking price as they are aware of interest from elsewhere.
Albion hope the player’s desire to join them will eventually tip the balance in their favour, but the Saints would hope the presence of his young brother Jake in their academy might change his mind.
Baggies scouts have lined up alternative targets with France international midfielder Morgan Amalfitano known to be one and Austria wideman Marko Arnautovic reported to be another.
However, Clarke remains adamant that Sinclair is the man he wants to provide his team with pace on the flanks.
The Scot was keen to land the ex-Chelsea trainee before the start of the season but time is now running out to complete a deal before Everton on Saturday.
Clarke was forced to deploy James Morrison and Graham Dorrans as makeshift widemen for the opening-day defeat to Southampton.
Meanwhile Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Shane Long will form the panel for an Albion fans’ forum at The Hawthorns on September 19 from 7pm.
The evening will be hosted by Free Radio’s Tom Ross. Tickets, priced £20 each, are available on 0871 271 9822.