Four Danske Bank Premiership clubs have made official contact with Dungannon Swifts over a move for striker Andrew Mitchell.
It is understood letters have been submitted to both the Swifts and player by title rivals Crusaders and Linfield, plus former club Glenavon and basement side Portadown.
Mitchell, the leading scorer in this season’s top flight with 18 goals, will come out of contract in the summer and his development since moving from Glenavon to Stangmore Park has placed the 22-year-old as the prime transfer target of the New Year window.
Swifts manager Rodney McAree is determined to keep the on-song striker at his club for the rest of the campaign as Dungannon pursue a top-six league finish and Irish Cup run.
“We are still in the hunt for a top-six finish and start the Irish Cup this weekend, so we do not want to lose any of our best players,” said McAree. “In terms of Andrew, he has worked so hard over the past few years and I just hope he makes a decision that is right for his career.
“Personally, I think his talent is such that Andrew should be playing for one of the top two clubs in the Irish League, so that would be Crusaders or Linfield.
“We have made it clear in the past it would take a ridiculous offer for us to consider selling Andrew in January.”
Crusaders and Glenavon have both previously registered interest in a move for Mitchell, with Linfield searching for an advantage to close the seven-point gap at the top of the table.
Portadown’s ban on registering players under professional contracts was imposed for this season by the Irish Football Association disciplinary committee. However, sources have confirmed the Ports can secure players on pre-contract agreements in this January window for professional deals to start after the end of the penalty period this summer.