Newcastle United are prepared to challenge Liverpool in the race for the signature of Reading defender Alex Pearce, reports suggest.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is faced with the task of restructuring his defensive options this summer, following the retirement of Jamie Carragher and the uncertainly surrounding the futures of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates.
It has been heavily suggested that Pearce, who was relegated with Reading last season, is poised to join Liverpool with his contract at the Madejski Stadium set to expire next month.
But reports from the north east suggest the Magpies are ready to seriously step up their interest in the Republic of Ireland international, and hope the promise of more first team football will be enough to convince him to opt for a move to St James' Park.
"I do think Alex would be a fantastic signing for Newcastle," a source close to Pearce told the Shields Gazette.
"He's in a fantastic position, and there's a number of clubs monitoring him. Newcastle would be a club that would interest him."
"Premier League football is something that once you've had a taste of it, you don't want to let it go, but at the moment we're still in touch with Reading."
With the future of club captain Fabricio Coloccini still uncertain, Alan Pardew remains firmly in the market to strengthen his own defence. The club have already been told by West Ham United chairman David Gold that Hammers defender James Tomkins is strictly not for sale this summer, leaving the club to investigate other options, including Pearce.
Liverpool's interest in the 24-year-old stems from Rodgers pre-existing relationship with the centre half. During his spell as Reading manager in 2009, the Northern Irishman saw fit to make Pearce Reading's club captain, a position he held onto following Rodgers' departure from the club.
The Merseysiders have already secured a deal to bring Kolo Toure to the club this summer, with the Ivorian another whose current deal is set to expire. Moves for both Toure and Pearce would represent cheap work from Liverpool's perspective, a tactic which may prove to be crucial as the club attempt to address both defensive and attacking concerns without breaking the bank.
In addition to Pearce, Liverpool remain heavily linked with Sporting Lisbon youngster Tiago Illori as a potential defensive recruit, having reportedly offered the financially stricken Portuguese club €4.2m for the 20-year-old.