Toby Alderweireld
Toby Alderweireld could be on his way out of Ajax after the Dutch champions moved closer to signing Mike van der Hoorn. [Reuters]

Ajax have moved a step closer to replacing in-demand centre-back Toby Alderweireld after being given permission by FC Utrecht to discuss a potential deal for defender Mike van der Hoorn.

Alderweireld has been heavily linked with a move away from Ajax in recent weeks, with Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen the two sides leading the chase to sign the versatile defender.

Leverkusen began to discuss a possible deal but their interest has subsided, while Liverpool are still keen to recruit another centre back who can instantly compete for a starting berth and remain at the club for many years to come.

Alderweireld has previously stated that he was flattered to be linked with Liverpool and made it clear that a lack of Champions League football would not hinder their chances of signing him.

The Reds have already secured the services of Kolo Toure but it seems manager Brendan Rodgers is keen to sign a younger defender who can compete with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger for a place in the back four.

The 24 year old can play at either centre back or right back and has a wealth of experience, having won three consecutive league titles at Ajax and featured heavily in the Champions League.

Ajax are preparing for his exit and it seems they have identified the perfect replacement in Van der Hoorn.

"Over the last few weeks, we have spoken with Ajax several times, doing so in a very pleasant, open and business atmosphere," Utrecht general manager Wilco van Schaik told De Telegraaf. "We have also given Mike permission to speak with Ajax.

"We have made clear to [Ajax director of football] Marc Overmars what our valuation of Mike is and Ajax have also given their version of the same to us. We both agree that the difference must be bridged and only then can we have clarity."

Van der Hoorn's arrival at the Amsterdam Arena would likely mean that Alderweireld would be sold in the coming weeks. The Belgium international reported for pre-season training yesterday and admitted that no offers had yet arrived.

"I've always said that I do not mind staying at Ajax for another year," he told Voetbal Primeur. "Only if there really is something wonderful [that comes along], I would want to go. That has not happened so far and so we will wait."

With Liverpool struggling to conclude a deal for Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori, they may turn their attention to Alderweireld who would be following in the footsteps of former Ajax teammates and international colleagues Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen if he moved to the Premier League.