Everton are said to be in pole position to sign highly-rated Burnley defender Michael Keane, although Stuart Pearce claims he would be "astounded" if the ambitious Toffees are able to beat the likes of Premier League rivals Manchester United and Chelsea to such an impressive signing.
The Times understands that Everton, who have already moved swiftly over recent weeks to bring both Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Ajax captain Davy Klaassen to Goodison Park, are looking to complete a £25m ($32m) deal for Keane before their pre-season preparations officially commence next week.
Such an addition would further bolster Ronald Koeman's squad in pursuit of a top-four finish in 2017-18, with doubts surrounding the future of skipper Phil Jagielka. However, Pearce appears shocked that no bigger suitors seem to be circling.
"I've got to say, if Everton get there before any of the top four, five or six, I'll be astounded," he told talkSPORT. "I saw him at the back end of last season and he had grown so much as a player - and I think there is more to come from him.
"If I was one of the bigger sides, I would get in and get there before Everton. I think if Everton get there before them they have signed an extremely good central defender that is going to improve and maybe even move on for bigger money when he eventually goes."
A product of Manchester United's academy, Keane left Old Trafford on a permanent basis in January 2015 after a succession of loan spells. He had been mentioned strongly in connection with a potential return to the Red Devils, only for his interest in such a reunion to reportedly diminish with the discovery that Jose Mourinho was eager to strengthen his defence with the addition of two new centre-backs.
United clinched the £31m signing of Victor Lindelof from Benfica earlier this month and it has been suggested that they may listen to offers for England duo Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have also been listed as potential suitors for Keane at different stages over the last few months, while he was previously said to have been identified by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as an ideal signing for the Blues.
Leicester City failed with a £10m offer for Keane last summer following Burnley's promotion back to the Premier League. His reputation has since been significantly enhanced by a stellar season in the top-flight and two senior international caps.