Title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal are reportedly set to lock horns as they battle to sign Marseille's Maxime Lopez.
The 16-year-old playmaker has won plenty of admirers across Europe, with the Premier League challengers both looking to acquire his services.
According to Daily Mail's Simon Jones, Lopez is rated as the brightest prospect in the French club's youth system—an accolade that has put both clubs on red alert.
Per Jones' report, Lopez was watched by Arsenal scout Gilles Grimandi on two occasions this season, but it is Liverpool who made the first move to swoon the young star, inviting him and his family as guests to watch the Reds' 4-0 derby demolition of Everton.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is also understood, according to Jones, to have met with Lopez in an attempt to show him Liverpool's commitment to signing him.
Lopez showed his talents during an under-17 match last month as he set up the side's first two goals in a 3-0 win against Nimes Gazelec.
OM.net's video shows the youngster's creativity to bag two assists, with skill and vision that will further attract Arsene Wenger and Rodgers:
Both clubs could exploit the youngster's contract situation and get away with paying just a small compensation to Marseille for his services.
According to Mirror's Andrew Gibney, neither club would have to pay any transfer fees to the French club, and it will be up to the player's parents to decide his future:
Liverpool wouldn’t have to pay a transfer fee for the youngster, as he is part of the youth set-up he is not allowed to sign a professional contract at this time. Marseille would be able to recoup a fee for developing the player, but it would be nothing like the transfer fee they would receive should he continue to develop in the first-team.
It seems, according to former coach Gregori, that the decision will be made by the player’s parents: “…he should have played in CFA (with the Marseille reserve team), but as we wanted to progress with the U19 side at all costs, he has been a bit restrained. At the end this will be a story about money… the parents will decide”.
Per La Provance, (h/t Mirror's Andrew Gibney), the French club could yet tempt the youngster to sign a deal, which would last for up to three years, highlighting the importance of either club to make their move, and soon, for Lopez:
Only this morning French newspaper La Provence reported that Lopez was considering signing his first Pro deal with Marseille, the 16-year-old would sign a three year deal that would keep him at the club until just shy of his 20th birthday. Liverpool will need to act fast if they want to capture this potential talent.
Goal.com's French football writer, Robin Bairner, tweeted last month that both Chelsea and Manchester City were in for Lopez:
But it now looks set for Arsenal and Liverpool to compete in the race to tempt the youngster to England, and show what they can offer to continue his development.
According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, the attacking midfielder has faced Arsenal twice already this season in the UEFA Youth League, a competition in which he has scored once in six matches.
Both clubs have utilised their respective youth policies to good effect in recent years, with Liverpool's squad brimming with talent that has come through the ranks at Anfield.
Most notably, Raheem Sterling's involvement at the club has proved Rodgers' desire to promote future stars from within, rather than shop around for expensive talent.
Where should Maxime Lopez sign up for next season?
Sterling began his career at Queens Park Rangers before joining the Reds in 2010, with the 19-year-old progressing from youth player to sitting on the brink of Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup this summer.
However, Arsenal could also provide an excellent stomping ground for the Marseille man's talents, as proved by the rise to fame of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey, all of whom joined before their respective 18th birthdays.
Lopez could be the latest on the youth conveyor belt at either club, and should the player look to move to England, he will be in good hands as his pedigree continues to rise.
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