Stoke City have submitted a bid for Charlton Athletic winger Alfie Doughty, StokeonTrentLive understands.
The 21-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and is interesting Celtic, who can offer a deal in January that would see Charlton only receive compensation.
But Stoke are believed to have tabled an offer worth seven figures and will face fierce competition for a player who has been one of the leading lights in League One.
Doughty, who broke through as full-back but has been used further forward on either flank, has been one of the most creative players in the division, despite missing a chunk of the season with a torn hamstring.
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer has been keen to tie Doughty down to a new deal – but stressed the importance of his recovery from injury.
He told South London Press: “Of course we want him to sign, but he has to be careful as well. If he comes back none of us know if he’ll be the same player – because his game is all about pace and he has done his hamstring.
“In my whole career I did about two hamstrings! That’s because I wasn’t gifted with pace. If you look it is the players who have pace that tend to have problems with their hamstrings.”
But Bowyer’s number two Johnnie Jackson told The Athletic: “With his age, and that the surgery went well, we’re confident he’ll come back an even stronger athlete because he’ll have done months of work in the gym that he otherwise wouldn’t have done.”
Speed is of the essence for Michael O’Neill this month and jet-heeled Rabbi Matondo is expected to complete a loan move from Schalke.
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It is the thing which has made Doughty stand out and Jackson added: “The one I always speak to him about — although they’re completely different levels, obviously — was when Bale was at Spurs (the first time) and when he first went to Real Madrid.
“He didn’t overcomplicate it. He knew he was quicker than everyone else. If he had space between him and the full-backs, he’d kick it past and open his legs. They couldn’t catch him, so why do you need to do anything different when you’re that quick?”
Stoke are working under the shadow of Financial Fair Play but there is a little bit of wriggle room, particularly if they can get players out.
O’Neill is looking to bolster his squad after injuries to key men Steven Fletcher and Tyrese Campbell and said: “We’ve got a little bit of room to manoeuvre but I think people know the situation we have at the club in terms of Financial Fair Play and the rules of that which we have to abide by.
“Where we are at this minute in time is that we probably have to generate money out of the squad, which means players leaving the club.
“We’ve done that in the previous two windows with more players leaving than coming in. This window, while it might not be as stringent as the previous two, we’ll have to look at our options and left-back certainly becomes a priority now and we need something dynamic at the top end of the pitch as well.”