LEEDS UNITED left-back Tom Pearce could continue his rapid rise up the ranks as England’s under-21s take in their second game of the 2018 Toulon Tournament in France tonight.
United are then confident that the 20-year-old will sign a new deal with the club on his return despite interest from clubs in the Premier League including Bournemouth and Everton.
Pearce only made his Whites debut in March when lining up for the Championship clash at home to Sheffield Wednesday but the youngster has quickly become first choice left-back, making five appearances before the end of the term.
The defender was called up to the England under-21s squad ahead of their bid to win the Toulon Tournament for a third year in a row and the left-back made a quick debut in Saturday’s opening group game against Japan.
Pearce was brought on as a second-half substitute in the 68th minute and the young Three Lions went on to record a 2-1 victory thanks to a late winner from Tammy Abraham.
United’s teenage midfielder Ronaldo Vieira is also part of the squad and the 19-year-old was an unused substitute against China.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side next take on Mexico in Salon-de-Provence tonight for a 7.30pm kick off with Mexico also having won their opening group game against Qatar.
England’s final group game takes place in Fos-sur-Mer on Friday with the knockout stages then beginning next Tuesday.
The final takes place in Martigues on Sunday, June 9, after which Pearce and Vieira will fly home with Pearce expected to sign a new deal with Leeds on his return.
The defender’s current deal at United expires this summer but United offered the left-back a new three-year contract earlier this month with Pearce having one month from May 18 to accept.
Bournemouth and Everton are also interested in the defender’s services with Everton looking to re-sign the player they released as a 16-year-old.
But talk that Bournemouth have made an actual offer for Pearce is understood to be wide of the mark and Leeds are confident of the defender signing a new deal with them on his return.
Leeds are now set for a busy summer of recruitment with Hull City striker Abel Hernandez, Swansea City centre-back Kyle Bartley and Manchester City goalkeeper Angus Gunn remaining three of the club’s main targets.
But the YEP understands that United are not looking at Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte, contrary to several reports.
Aston Villa looked set to rival United in a bid to land the services of Tigers striker Hernandez whose contract at Hull expires this summer. But Villa’s defeat in Saturday’s Championship play-off final to Fulham has left question marks over the club’s finances which could help United’s pursuit of Hernandez.
The Uruguayan seems certain to leave Hull and his big wage could be the only stumbling block to joining Leeds though the Whites remain optimistic of getting a deal done.
Bartley is definitely keen to sign for the club that he enjoyed a fine loan spell with in 2016-17 but a possible reluctance from Swansea City to sell to a potential promotion rival and not so much the shared interest in Bartley from Rangers could be the stumbling block.
Manchester City stoppper Gunn remains one of the goalkeeping options United are looking at whilst the club continue to be linked with Carpi forward Jerry Mbakogu.
Meanwhile, speculation over the future of head coach Paul Heckingbottom also continues to mount with chairman Andrea Radrizzani thought to be considering a possible change.
Former Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri and ex-Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup are the two latest names to be linked with the post with United thought to be exploring the idea of employing a foreign head coach.
Ranieri is out of work and open to a return to England having now left French club Nantes while Laudrup has left Qatari club Al-Rayyan.