LIVERPOOL are leading the race to sign Manchester City's out-of-favour winger Adam Johnson before the transfer window closes.
Johnson is keen to leave City this summer after being used as a bit-part player in last year's title-winning season.
Sunderland, Spurs and Everton have all shown an interest and are ready to match City's £10m asking price, which would give them a £2m profit on the 25-year-old, signed from Middlesbrough in 2010.
Last night Liverpool became favourites for his signature when their manager, Brendan Rodgers, was told he has the funds to raid Manchester City.
Daniel Agger, a known Manchester City target, is at this point not included in the prospective deal. The City manager, Roberto Mancini, remains a fan of the 27-year-old Liverpool defender, who would cost in the region of £22m if he were to leave Anfield before the end of August, but the deal for Johnson would be a purely financial one.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has moved to ease the pain of Liverpool's opening-day Premier League defeat by securing the future of centre-half Martin Skrtel.
Skrtel has signed a contract extension which will increase his salary to around £70,000 a week at Anfield and is understood to commit him to the club for another four years.
The Slovakian had two years left on a £50,000-a-week deal, but there had been interest in him from several Champions League clubs at the end of last season.
"After last season there was a lot of talk about my future but I have to say that the first priority for me was always to sign a new deal with Liverpool," said Skrtel.
Liverpool find themselves in a new landscape where they are increasingly forced to fend off interest in their top stars from those clubs who are competing for league titles and the top European prize, something Rodgers cannot offer in the immediate future.
To tie down Skrtel on the back of Luis Suarez's new deal last week is reassuring, and if no mega offer arrives for Daniel Agger in the next 10 days he is likely to be next to sign an extension after the closure of the transfer window.
Given the scale of the task facing Rodgers to lead Liverpool back into the top four -- fully exposed during the 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion --he has his work cut out to ensure those players see out the bulk of those contracts.
Liverpool will not appeal against the red card given to Agger at the Hawthorns, despite the Dane's protestations about the validity of his dismissal.
Agger will therefore miss Liverpool's home tie this weekend against Manchester City, the club whose interest in the player was rebuffed earlier this month.
Rodgers will lead his side to Edinburgh for a Europa League tie on Thursday seeking an early response to that setback and is likely to make several changes, with Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing likely to be given a chance.