Doug Ellis, the Aston Villa chairman, yesterday offered Southampton £6m for James Beattie.
The striker must now choose between the Midlands side and Everton, who have tabled an equivalent bid. "It's up now to the club to give us the authority to meet the boy and draw up a contract if he wishes to come," Ellis said.
David O'Leary, the Villa manager, will abandon the search to augment his threadbare strikeforce until the summer if he fails to win the race for Beattie. O'Leary has been chasing the 26-year-old since the summer when he had an offer for a similar amount turned down.
"There are no contingency plans if things don't work out because, although the window is open, you just don't buy for the sake of it," O'Leary said.
Beattie is understood to be keen on moving to Villa despite Everton's offer of a bigger financial package and possible European football for next season.
His arrival would relieve the workload on Juan Pablo Angel, who has not scored since November, and Carlton Cole, who is only now nearing full fitness after a hamstring injury, while Darius Vassell is still over a month away from a return with a broken ankle.Reuse content