Jason Pearce was closing in on a move to Wigan Athletic last night with the Lancashire club refusing to give up on their pursuit of the Leeds United defender.
Leeds appear ready to sell Pearce to a team in the thick of the Championship’s relegation fight following fresh discussions between the clubs in the past 24 hours.
Wigan made an initial approach for the 26-year-old last week following the arrival at Elland Road of centre-back and new signing Sol Bamba.
United head coach Neil Redfearn was understood to be keen to retain Pearce despite the recruitment of Bamba on loan from Palermo, with fellow defender Giuseppe Bellusci beginning a two-match ban this weekend.
Bellusci will also be hit by a far longer suspension if a charge of misconduct brought against him by the Football Association is upheld.
The Italian is accused of racially abusing Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during a game at Carrow Road in October and faces a minimum five-game ban. He denies the charge.
Bamba, the former Leicester City player, is set to replace Bellusci and make his Leeds debut at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, partnering captain Liam Cooper at centre-back.
Pearce looked likely to feature on the bench having lost his place in United’s line-up. And Pearce, who was replaced as club captain at the end of November, is understood to have been told by club owner Massimo Cellino – currently disqualified from running Leeds by the Football League – that United would listen to offers for him during the January transfer window.
Leeds have cover at centre-back in the form youngsters Scott Wootton and Dario Del Fabro but Pearce is the leading appearance-maker in the senior squad.
The former Portsmouth player has featured 112 times since joining the club in a £500,000 deal in 2012. He has 18 months left on his contract and United are holding out for a six-figure fee from Wigan.
United are also continuing to look for further signings as Monday’s transfer deadline approaches. Catania striker Edgar Cani and Sassuolo forward Leonardo Pavoletti are long-term targets while Leeds are also thought to be interested in Millwall’s Martyn Woolford and Rotherham United’s Ben Pringle.
United, meanwhile, have made a new appointment to their board following Cellino’s resignation as club president last Friday. Giampaolo Caboni, a 61-year-old who worked with Cellino at Serie A side Cagliari, was confirmed as a director by Companies House yesterday.
Caboni is also a director of Eleonora Immobiliare, an Italian firm which acts as parent company for Eleonora Sport Ltd. Eleonora Sport Ltd was used by Cellino to buy a 75 per cent stake in Leeds last April.