Liverpool have reportedly stepped up their interest in Genk rising star Bilal El Khannouss, inviting the player's agent for "talks" over a possible move just as Spanish giants Atletico Madrid named him as a priority target for this January window.
According to reports coming from Belgian outlet Het Laatste Nieuws, the player's agent, Karima Ben Aissa, who is also his mother, has been "invited" by several clubs, including Liverpool, to discuss a potential move.
"We're in contact with a few clubs," she said last week, but pointed out that her son's next destination "doesn’t necessarily have to be a big name". She added: "Playing minutes take precedence."
The 19-year-old, whose contract runs until 2027, has scored three times and registered three assists in 20 Jupiler Pro League appearances so far this season for Genk.
The Belgium-born midfielder typically plays through the middle but has also featured on the left-hand side.
Several reports since last year have suggested that Liverpool are eyeing up El Khannouss, having sent scouts to watch the teenager in action this season.
However, the Reds face competition from both Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen, with the Spanish side, in particular, interested in lining up a move this January.
Reports from Spanish outlet Marca suggest that Atleti have identified El Khannouss as one of three prime targets (alongside Rapid București's Horatiu Moldovan and Juventus' Moise Kean) for the winter transfer window.
Despite his tender age, El Khannouss is already a full international with Morocco, having made his national team debut in the World Cup 2022 third-place playoff defeat to Croatia. In fact, he is currently representing his nation at the African Cup of Nations.
Because of this, Genk appear to be holding firm that a January transfer is not on the cars as they look to negotiate a higher fee next summer.
A record fee
El Khannouss was awarded the Belgian Golden Shoe for the best young talent playing in the country back in 2022, while he was nominated for the prestigious Golden Boy award (eventually won by Jude Bellingham) last year.
Last year, Genk director Dimitri De Condé told HLN: “I have always said to Bilal and his entourage that we believe he should become the most expensive outgoing transfer in Belgian football.”
The current record sale in Belgian football history is Charles De Ketelaere's €36.5m (£31m) move to AC Milan from Club Brugge in 2022.