Aston Villa were last night believed to be locked in a battle with Liverpool to sign Wilfred Bouma, the Holland international defender, from PSV Eindhoven for about £2 million.
David O'Leary, the Villa manager, needs a centre-back to replace Martin Laursen and Bouma has already made it clear that he is ready to leave PSV.
But Liverpool also need a new defender and Rafael Benitez, their manager, has reportedly also tried to sign Jonathan Woodgate on loan from Real Madrid.
Laursen's knee injury suggests that he is not a long-term answer to Villa's defensive problems, and, while Liam Ridgewell has performed well at centre-back this season, O'Leary wants a player of proven international quality. Bouma fits the bill.
While Villa's stock is rising after the acquisition of Milan Baros last week, Liverpool can offer Bouma the excitement of Champions League football.
Villa were typically tight-lipped last night but Ger Lagendijk, who acts as Bouma's agent, said that the player will be moving to a Premiership club before the transfer window closes tomorrow.
He claimed that Villa and Liverpool were trying to sign the player.
"It is 90 per cent certain Bouma will leave PSV and we hope to reach an agreement with a club today," he said yesterday.
Rumours were rife that the defender was at Villa Park for a medical but Villa would neither confirm nor deny this.
Bouma, aged 27, has played 18 times for Holland and represented his country at the 2004 European Championships in Portugal. Indeed, he scored in a 3-2 defeat to Czech Republic, for whom Baros was on target.
Bouma has been with PSV since 1999 and he played for the Dutch club in the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League last season, a tie that ended in an aggregate defeat to AC Milan.