West Ham United have leapt to the front of the queue to land Middlesbrough's Matthew Bates, skysports.com understands.
The highly versatile 22-year-old has been one of the few success stories for Boro in an otherwise disappointing season, which looks set to end in relegation.
Bates, who has fought his way back from three separate cruciate knee ligament operations, has played at right-back, centre-back and central midfield this season and has shone for Gareth Southgate in the latter part of the campaign.
However, the Teesside born star is out-of-contract in the summer and he looks set to leave after rejecting Boro's offer of an extension.
Skysports.com understands that West Ham have now made their move and are keen to tie him down on a long-term deal.
As Bates is under 24 Boro would be due compensation, but it would likely be nowhere near his market value.
West Ham are trying to do a quick deal as they know there is a huge amount of interest emerging for Bates.
Both Wigan and Everton would like to take him to the North West, while if Bates wished to stay closer to home, Newcastle and Sunderland are keeping close tabs on him.
Coincidentally, Bates will get the chance to impress West Ham this Sunday when Boro travel to Upton Park for the final game of the season.