If Jamal Lewis seals a glamour move to Liverpool it would be a huge boost for both him and Northern Ireland, says his international boss Ian Baraclough.
The gifted 22-year-old left-back, who has 12 caps, is a wanted man following Norwich City's relegation from the Premier League and Jurgen Klopp's champions have had a £10m bid knocked back.
Pool want Lewis as cover for Scotland captain Andy Robertson but the defender is under contract until 2023 and City are holding out for a higher offer.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that Norwich had slapped a £20m price tag on their best young players following their relegation to the Championship.
And Liverpool are prepared to make the 22-year-old Luton man the most expensive player in Northern Ireland's history.
In 2018, midfielder George Saville joined Middlesbrough from Millwall in a permanent deal for around £8m, matching the figure West Brom paid for Jonny Evans from Manchester United in 2015.
Some Northern Ireland fans have raised concerns over a lack of game time which could hinder Lewis' development at Anfield, but Baraclough is having none of that.
"Why wouldn't you want to go to the European champions, the Premier League champions and the World Club champions?" said the new Northern Ireland chief.
"Some people might say you won't get as much game time, but if you're training day in, day out with Jurgen Klopp and the calibre of players he'd be working with, you're going to improve as a player and it would take him to the next level. It would be up to him to knuckle down if that move happens, and make sure he's at the forefront of the manager's thoughts.
"The amount of games they play, and the way they rotate players now, he'd certainly get game time and I certainly think it would bring him on as a player.
"And for me, as the national manager, I can see that as a step up and another player in the Premier League after Norwich unfortunately dropped out of the Premier League.
“I’ve spoken to two or three people about the proposed move. There have been differing opinions.
“As a player, I’d be saying, ‘Where’s the contract, I want to sign it’.”
Lewis’ progress at club and international level has been startling and while Premier League clubs were expected to show an interest, eyebrows were raised when Liverpool were linked with the defender who is eligible to play for Northern Ireland through his Belfast-born mother.
Baraclough, however, is not surprised a club of the stature of the Reds has made a move.
“He’s got all the attributes, he’s a level-headed kid and he’s one that wants to improve,” added the former Sligo Rovers supremo.
“You’ll find him in the gym before training and after training and he’s probably one of those kids, having worked with him for a little bit of time, you have to keep the reins on a bit so he doesn’t do too much.
“He wants to question you about how he can improve and I love players like that.
“I love players who invest time in themselves and don’t just settle for what they’ve got.
“He’s got a captain in Steven Davis who has been like that his entire career. Who better to have than Davo and Jonny Evans — they are not there by luck or by chance, they are there for a reason and they have worked at it day in, day out and never rested on their laurels.
“To have senior players like that within the group to look up to and strive to be as good as them and as consistent as them… you have to be at that level day in, day out.”
Another player who could be on the move is Jordan Jones, who could leave Rangers and embark on a new challenge in the English Championship.
Moving clubs can be disruptive in players’ careers but Baraclough is hoping any Northern Ireland aces accepting a new challenge can make it a smooth transition.
“It depends what stage players are at and how they feel going into clubs,” he added.
“You’ve got players who will make the step up and they will go into the season with optimism, excitement, energised and can’t wait to get going.
“Some will be out of contract and wondering what their next club will be and with the transfer window open until into October, we could have players going into September still maybe unattached or unsure where they are signing.
“Part of the conversations I’ve been having is asking them to keep in touch and let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.
“Bobby Burns had a conversation a few days ago and maybe having that conversation made him more confident and more assured to go and do it (move from Hearts to Barrow).”
Since being confirmed as Michael O’Neill’s successor, 49-year-old Leicester man Baraclough has been busy re-establishing contact with the players.
“I haven’t met players face to face but I’ve spoken to probably 34/35 players,” he added. “They’ve been in various stages of end of seasons, hopefully starting pre-seasons, some still on lockdown, some still on self-imposed isolation, some out of contract, some signing for new clubs… it’s a whole different scenario from what we would’ve seen on any other pre-season or end of season.
“I had good conversations with a lot of them but mainly I’ve spoken face to face with staff because ex-managers come and take some of your staff away as well, as expected, which means you’ve got to go and replace them and bring your own people in as well.
“I’ve a nice blend of continuity, players in the squad, players who have just found their way into the squad, staff members who have been there for a long time and one or two who have been brought in because there have been places to be filled.”