Everton sent their head of recruitment to watch Sam Byram against Ipswich Town as the Premier League side stepped up their interest in the Leeds United star.
The Toffees have consistently been linked with a move for the 22-year-old this season and are reported to be putting together a £3m move for the full-back.
While Leeds owner Massimo Cellino is said to be holding out for £5m, Everton chief Roberto Martinez sent along his most trusted scout to ensure Byram is ready for the top flight.
Ian Atkins, the club’s head of recruitment, was in attendance at Portman Road with a specific remit to watch Byram. Atkins was previously Everton’s European chief scout, and fulfilled a similar role at Sunderland between 2006 and 2012.
Byram’s contract expires at the end of the season, and while Leeds will not lose him on a free transfer due to his age, Cellino has spoken about listening to offers this month.
Leeds will be due a tribunal fee if Byram does depart in the summer.
There seems to be little chance of a new deal being thrashed out between the player and the club.
Leeds took an early lead against Ipswich on Tuesday night, Souleymane Doukara scoring after only 12 seconds – the fastest goal in the Football League this season and the second quickest goal in Leeds’ history.
However, for the other 89 minutes, they were outplayed and when Ipswich went ahead in stoppage time at the end of the match through Brett Pitman, victory was no less than they deserved.
The late goal ended an undefeated run for the Whites stretching back to the game against Hull City on December 5, a period encompassing eight matches in all competitions.
Head coach Steve Evans is refusing to give up hope of a play-off push, but admits that his side have to win at Hillsborough on Saturday.
This might prove a difficult task against the Championship’s seventh-placed side. Wednesday beat Bolton 3-2 on Tuesday night to move to within two points of Brighton in sixth.
Evans said: “We need to win on Saturday. I said it before the game (at Ipswich) that if we don’t take anything tonight, we have to go and win at Hillsborough.
“We will be trying to win at Hillsborough. We have enjoyed the run when we were on it, and we need to go on another run now.”