Bernardo Espinosa has agreed to move to Middlesbrough as a free agent following the expiration of his contract at Sporting Gijon on 30 June, IBTimes UK understands. The Colombian centre-back will sign a three-year deal at the Riverside Stadium, with an optional one-year extension.
His agent Alvaro Torres, of You First Sport, travelled to England on Wednesday morning to complete the deal. The Premier League new boys are expected to make the announcement official in the coming hours.
Watford and Bournemouth also made offers to lure Bernardo to the Premier League, but Aitor Karanka made a personal offer to the Colombian to encourage him to move to Middlesbrough instead. Victor Orta, who works with Middlesbrough's scouting staff, has also played a major role, as he worked with Bernardo during their time at Sevilla together.
The 26-year-old made his top-flight debut back in 2011 with the current Europa League champions, after coming through their prolific academy system. Following loan spells at Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon, the towering defender agreed a permanent switch to the Asturian side in 2013.
Bernardo formed an impressive partnership with Luis Hernandez – who is widely expected to join Leicester City – at the heart of Sporting's back-line, helping them earn promotion to La Liga in the 2014-15 campaign.
Bernardo's impressive start to the 2015-16 season attracted the attention of a number of Premier League clubs, as he appeared to have the perfect physical attributes for English football.
Watford – then managed by Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores – and Leicester themselves both approached him at the time to discuss the possibility of a summer move. However, an injury in January saw those talks postponed until his return to action.
Last week, Bernardo called a press conference to announce his departure from Gijon, despite the club making him a renewal offer to stay. IBTimes UK reported at the time Middlesbrough were frontrunners to secure his signature, with Watford and Bournemouth also in the race.
We can now confirm that Bernardo has finally made the decision to switch to Teesside, and a deal is expected to be formally announced within hours.
The defender will become the Premier League newbies second signing of the summer, having previously purchased Denmark winger Viktor Fischer from Ajax in a deal worth around £3.8m ($5.4m).