Linfield appear in pole position to sign Jimmy Callacher after Glentoran publicly jettisoned their player on Thursday night.
Speculation has been mounting over the future of Callacher – whose contract expires next summer – with the Blues being linked with a New Year bid for the 22-year-old.
And that move across the ‘Big Two’ divide appears to be nearing completion.
Glentoran claim Callacher – a product of the club’s Academy – had indicated his wish to join Linfield, after turning down an enhanced contract to remain on Mersey Street.
In a statement, the East Belfast club said: “Earlier this season he outlined his conditions for remaining at Glentoran. Each of these conditions was immediately met – a significant pay rise, a three-year contract with the option of a fourth, and the guarantee of a testimonial season in the final year of the new contract.
“To the surprise of the manager and the club, Jimmy refused to sign the contract on these agreed terms. The club was then surprised to read clearly leaked information in the press that Linfield were interested in the player and disappointed to read Jimmy discuss his contract situation in the press. This discussion would have been more correctly and productively held in private with his club.
“On December 3 the club received a formal, written request from Linfield to speak to Jimmy. We had previously received enquiries from other clubs, including a player exchange offer. This was rejected on the basis that we had already agreed terms with the player.
“Glentoran FC has no interest in keeping any player who does not want to be part of the manager’s rebuilding programme. Therefore Callacher is free to join any club willing to meet our valuation of the player and his own high valuation of himself.
“Jimmy Callacher has been with Glentoran since he signed as a 12-year-old. Glentoran has invested considerable time and money in developing him into the established first team player he has become.
“If Linfield or any other club are interested in him for January they will need to meet our high valuation. If he does not leave the club in January Glentoran will be due a considerable development fee at the end of the season. Either way the player will categorically not leave Glentoran on the cheap.
“Nor will he play again for Glentoran.”
Another player being linked with Linfield is former Northern Ireland winger Ivan Sproule who recently parted company with Scottish Premiership club Ross County.
The former Institute and Hibernian midfielder is believed to have attracted the interest of the Blues and Derry City.
Linfield are also being linked with Portadown’s transfer-listed star Kevin Braniff.