Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool are pursuing Schalke 04 defender Benedikt Howedes, according to talkSport. The 24-year-old German international has been with the club since he turned professional in 2007 and is currently the first team captain.

Benedikt Howedes
Benedikt Howedes

Howedes is contracted to the Veltins-Arena club until 2014. Talks over a contract extension were ongoing, but talkSport reports that Howedes recently called for a pause in negotiations.

This alerted the Premier League trio but the Bundesliga club's sporting director, Horst Heldt, remains confident his captain will remain in Germany.

"Benedikt Howedes is our captain and one of the faces that will characterise the future of Schalke. Of course, we want to extend his contract early with him," Heldt was quoted as saying by German newspaper Bild.

Howedes at United

Sir Alex Ferguson's interest in Howedes would be understandable. The Old Trafford club once boasted the finest central defensive pairing in Europe, with Serbian international Nemanja Vidic slotting in alongside England's Rio Ferdinand.

However, both defenders are now on the wrong side of 30 and replacements are needed. Ferdinand, 34, will be out of contract at the end of the season and Vidic, 31, is battling injury worries, with two knee surgeries placing doubts over long-term fitness.

Howedes at Arsenal

The Gunners' interest in Howedes comes after news that Swiss international Johan Djourou and 32-year-old Frenchman Sebastien Squillaci are both likely to leave north London. That would leave Arsene Wenger with only Belgian Thomas Vermaelen, Frenchman Laurent Koscielny and German Per Mertesacker as central defenders.

Howedes at Liverpool

The Reds, meanwhile, were linked with a move for the German in the summer. At the time, although talkSport reported Brendan Rodgers was considering a move, rumours both Real Madrid and AC Milan were interested in the young defender may have led the Anfield club to lose interest. Rodgers has only Slovakian Martin Skrtel and Dane Daniel Agger as quality first-choice centre backs and the addition of Howedes would certainly improve that part of the team.

Ferguson Calm over Defender's Future

Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand is out of contract with Manchester United at the end of the season

Meanwhile, Ferdinand's age has not stopped Ferguson from pressing his veteran defender to sign a new contract. The ex-England international has yet to agree an extension.

"I don't think Rio wants to leave and, as I have said before, he can play on. I don't think he has the same issue with his back that he had a couple of years ago. It is manageable now. There is no way you would be expecting him to play every four days right through a season anyway," Ferguson said.