Reading defender Alex Pearce is reportedly close to joining Liverpool on a free transfer in the summer.

The 24-year-old, whose contract with the Royals runs out at the end of the season, is yet to sign a new deal and is expected to leave the Madejski Stadium in the summer. The centre-back has been attracting interest from quite a few Premier League clubs, including West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City, but it now appears the Reds have emerged as favourites to snap up the Republic of Ireland international, according to the Daily Star.

Alex Pearce heads the ball away from Carlos Tevez

Pearce, who has made 17 appearances for Reading this season, has worked under Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, while he was in charge at the Madejski, in 2009. The defender had featured for Scotland in the junior levels but later chose to represent the Republic and scored on his senior international debut against Oman back in September.

Reading boss Brian McDermott is well aware that the chances of Pearce signing an extension with the Royals at the end of the season is very slim now.

"We will see where he will be in the summer. At this moment in time, nothing looks to be signed," the manager said.

Rodgers is in the market for a centre-back to replace Jamie Carragher, who will hang up his boots at the end of the season. However, Pearce is not expected to be signed as a direct replacement for the veteran and would be more of a squad player instead, with uncertainty looming over the futures of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates.

Coates has made just three Premier League appearances this season, while Skrtel has fallen down the pecking order of late and is now understood to be a target for his former club Zenit St Petersburg.

Rodgers recently admitted the club needs to recruit a new, experienced centre-back in the summer. The Merseyside out have been linked to Swansea City's Ashley Williams, Lyon's Dejan Lovren and Lazio's Modibo Diakite.