A host of cross-channel clubs are on red alert after Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce flew to Germany for transfer talks with SpVgg Greuther Furth yesterday.
The 19-year-old met with representatives from the Bundesliga 2 outfit to discuss personal terms and take a tour of the facilities at their 15,000-capacity Trolli Arena ahead of a potential move to Bavaria.
Boyce is understood to be keen on the switch and the Germans have made it very clear their interest is firm, as Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor explained last night.
“This is not a trial or anything like that — they have watched Liam in action, liked what they saw and made an approach for his services,” he said.
“We were happy with the terms of their initial offer and, while we aren't yet at the stage where we've agreed a fee, we will begin negotiations once they have concluded their discussions with Liam.
“We have always said that we wouldn't stand in the way of his dream of making the step up to full-time football and our position hasn't changed.”
The Carling Young Footballer of the Year stunned local fans with a series of spectacular displays and strikes last year, bagging the inaugural Carling Goal of the Season gong for an inspired solo effort against Lisburn Distillery at New Grosvenor.
Celtic have long been admirers of his talents but international duty precluded the youngster from facing the Hoops when the Glasgow club travelled to Solitude as part of Cliftonville's 130th anniversary celebrations last October, though they did invite him for a trial at the beginning of July.
His exploits for Northern Ireland's under-19s caught the eye of scouts from La Liga giants Barcelona and Espanyol and, while speculation over a move away from Cliftonville has followed his every kick for the last 12 months, his performances in the Reds' recent successful Europa League campaign have accelerated the situation.
Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers continue to monitor his progress and news that Greuther have made the first move could spark his fellow suitors into action, with Watford and Doncaster Rovers having stepped up their own respective interests recently.
British clubs will have until the end of this month to make a move before the transfer window shuts.
Cliftonville manager Eddie Patterson has been resigned to losing Boyce for a long time now and isn't surprised to see his young starlet on the verge of a move away from Solitude.
“I've always said that any club which comes in for Liam and gives him his chance in the full-time game would not be taking a risk,” he explained.
“He has all the attributes required to make it and, while we at Cliftonville have done our utmost to help him become the best player he can, that step up to full-time training will only improve him further.
“He's not only a top talent, he's also a good kid who has no airs and graces about him and is always willing to learn.
“He listens on the training pitch and listens during matches — he's always prepared to put shift in and I've no doubt that whoever signs him will regard it as a fantastic piece of business.”