By Duncan Castles
Liverpool, Everton and Cardiff City have joined Southampton in the race for Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama.
The Scottish champions have accepted a bid of around £12 million from Southampton for Wanyama, who excelled in last season's run to the Champions League knock-out stage.
The sum represents a huge profit on the £900,000 Celtic paid to acquire Wanyama from Belgium side Germinal Beerschot in July 2011, and is understood to exceed their initial asking price of £10m.
The first Kenyan to play professionally in the UK, Wanyama has a long-standing ambition to become his nation's first Premier League footballer. His preference, however, is to be allowed a choice over his next club.
Prepared to invest aggressively in their first top-tier campaign in over 50 years, Cardiff are willing to pay the 21-year-old a higher salary than Southampton, but believe that Celtic have over-priced his transfer fee. The Kenyan's contract at Parkhead expires in 2015 and he has declined offers to extend it.
Everton regard Wanyama as a natural central midfield successor to Marouane Fellaini, who they expect to leave Goodison Park this summer. However, Roberto Martinez's side are not in a position to lodge an offer until Arsenal have completed their deal to sign Fellaini after activating the Belgium international's £22m release clause earlier in June.
Liverpool may also be restrained by actions elsewhere in the market as Brendan Rodgers prioritises a radical rebuild of his defence and forward line. With his total transfer budget dependent on sales, Rodgers' ability to move for Wanyama is likely to hinge on adding the exit of the likes of Jordan Henderson to the recent sale of Andy Carroll to West Ham for an initial £15.5m.
While all four of England's Champions League clubs have scouted Wanyama extensively, there remains a concern over whether he is ready to move directly to a team challenging for the title. Jose Mourinho has been impressed with the African's progress at Celtic, but would prefer to bring a more experienced holding midfielder into what will be a key role in his new Chelsea side.
On holiday in Kenya following a recent World Cup qualifying tie, Wanyama said he had yet to discuss Southampton's offer to Celtic with his agent.