Fulham, Aston Villa and West Ham United are vying to sign Andy Carroll from Liverpool with AC Milan's interest in the pounds 35?million striker expected to be increased if Zlatan Ibrahimovic is sold to Paris Saint-Germain.
At present, Fulham are the only club prepared to make an offer to buy - rather than loan - Carroll, with Liverpool contacting clubs to see if they are interested in signing the England international.
It had been thought that Liverpool were seeking a loan for Carroll, whose future has been publicly questioned by new manager Brendan Rodgers, but it is understood they are interested in a sale. That would, as things stand, make Fulham the favourites if the player can be persuaded to leave.
West Ham chairman David Sullivan is due to meet Carroll's agent, Mark Curtis, on Thursday but sources at the newly-promoted Premier League club still rate the chances of success at little more than "10%".
Nevertheless West Ham are keen to make a 'marquee' signing and will continue to push for Carroll. Even if the 23 year-old did go out only on loan, it would be an expensive deal with Liverpool expected to demand a big loan fee and a high portion, if not all, of his wages being covered. Fulham want to acquire a powerful striker having missed out on Russia international Pavel Pogrebnyak, who was on loan last season but has since agreed a permanent deal with Reading. With Fulham having sold Bobby Zamora to Queens Park Rangers in January and Andy Johnson leaving to join the same club this summer, they are short of strikers.
Fulham are also aware of Liverpool's interest in Clint Dempsey, who has just one more year left on his contract at Craven Cottage and would like to leave, ideally in search of Champions League football.
Liverpool cannot offer that to the American but are a bigger club, although they are resisting the pounds 7 million plus being asked for by Fulham for a player who is 29. Liverpool are understood to have made an offer, however, and talks continue. Fulham would like to investigate the possibility of agreeing a deal of Dempsey plus cash for Carroll - who is believed to now only be valued at around pounds 15 million - although the club will also have to evaluate the player's character.
Liverpool are expected to tomorrow announce the signing of Fabio Borini from Roma for around pounds 11 million, which will raise further questions over Carroll's chances of regular first-team football this season.
Liverpool could rationalise his sale, and the loss of pounds 20?million in his fee, by claiming they would still remain in profit given he was signed following the pounds 45 million recouped from Fernando Torres's departure to Chelsea in January last year.
Carroll has insisted that he would like to stay at Liverpool and fight for his place but if Rodgers makes it clear he is not part of his plans then it could lead to a rethink, especially if the former Newcastle striker is determined to pursue his England career. Carroll would not appear to fit the fluid 4-3-3 formation favoured by Rodgers, who had Borini on loan at Swansea and has tracked his progress in Serie A.
Tottenham have turned down the chance to make an offer, after being contacted on Tuesday by Liverpool, who were in contact with a number of clubs, although Villa have registered an interest through new manager, Paul Lambert. However, it is understood that Carroll does not want to join Villa and might prefer a move to London if he is made to leave Anfield.
Milan's interest is thought to be genuine but may be contingent on Ibrahimovic leaving. PSG want to sign the striker and Brazilian defender Thiago Motta. Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola, who also represents Mario Balotelli, held talks with Milan yesterday and the Swede's future is understood to have been discussed given the interest of the cash-rich and highly-ambitious PSG.