Sunderland have had a bid for the Wigan Athletic midfielder Lee Cattermole rejected but the player is attracting interest from higher up the Premier League and there could be yet more pressure to sell.
Liverpool are understood to have considered a move for Cattermole in the event of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano leaving, a prospect that looks less likely after Rafael Benitez took a defiant stance about their contracts on Thursday.
However, Cattermole, who looked effective for the England Under-21s in last month's European championships where Stuart Pearce's side reached the final before losing to Germany, is attracting a lot of interest.
The former Middlesbrough midfielder was the subject of a bid, thought to be of around £8m, from Bruce, who brought him to Wigan last summer. Cattermole is relatively experienced in the Premier League for a 21-year-old and his English nationality puts a premium on him with the prospect of the "4+4" quotas the Premier League is considering introducing.
Bruce, who is close to a deal for Fraizer Campbell of Manchester United, has also lodged a firm interest in the Portsmouth striker Peter Crouch, valued at around £15m by his club. He is waiting to hear from the player who has also had interest from Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa. The willingness of Sunderland to pay higher wages is making them significant players in the transfer market.
On Cattermole, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said: "Lee is not for sale. End of story. He is a fantastic player, a leader on and off the field, and is central to our plans going forwards. We are not interested in selling him, which was why this offer was rejected immediately.
"It is not usually our style to discuss incoming or outgoing transfers until they are completed, but we have made an exception in this case because I feel so strongly about keeping Lee, along with all my best players. He is one of many talented players. Let's forget about this now and move on."
*Arsenal have confirmed that the American Stan Kroenke has slightly increased his overall stake in the club's parent holding company to 28.58 per cent with the purchase of 160 ordinary shares – at a cost of some £1.36m. Should the US entrepreneur reach the 30 per cent threshold, that would, under financial regulations, automatically trigger a formal takeover bid.