Sporting Gijon centre-back Bernardo Espinosa is ready to move to the Premier League as a free agent having received offers from Middlesbrough, Watford and Bournemouth. The Colombian defender will make his final decision next week, but sources close to the deal have told IBTimes UK that "the proposal from Aitor Karanka's side is the one Bernardo is more likely to accept".
Bernardo, 26, developed in the youth ranks of Sevilla until earning his first-team debut with the current Europe League winners in 2011. The Colombian spent the consecutive seasons on loan at Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon before completing a permanent move to the Asturian side in 2013.
The towering centre-back played a crucial role in Abelardo's promotion to La Liga in the 2014-2015 campaign and also started the current season as a mainstay of the back-line. With his deal due to expire at the end of last season, both Leicester City and Watford approached him earlier this season to discuss the possibility of procuring him in the summer. However, an injury in January scuppered any deal and he did not feature for the rest of season.
However, with him expected to be ready for action at the start of net season, a number of Premier League outfits renewed their efforts to sign him as a free agent.
Sporting have tried to avoid his departure by offering a new lucrative deal, but Bernardo called a press conference on 10 June to reveal his decision to leave La Liga and move to the Premier League instead.
"My decision is to not continue here once my contract expires," Bernardo said. "In January, after the injury, we decided to wait to make the decision. I wanted to wait until my body, my mind and my soul were ready.
"It's been a very difficult decision because of the love I have for this club. A new challenge in England is a personal adventure. I will play in the Premier League. That's the main reason behind my decision. I've always wanted to play there. But Real Sporting have been in my head until the last second and that's why I have delayed the decision until today. I just want to say thank you to the club.
IBTimes UK understands that while Leicester City are no longer interested in his services, Middlesbrough and Bournemouth have joined Watford in the race to secure his services.
Sources close to the 26-year-old defender told us that the Riverside Stadium is his most likely destination, although the player will not make a final decision until next week.
Karanka wants to bolster his newly promoted squad and could make Bernardo his second signing of the summer, having previously brought Denmark winger Viktor Fischer from Ajax in a deal worth around £3.8m.