Preston North End are set to lose star midfielder Ben Pearson either this month or in the summer, after the 26-year-old informed the club that he did not see a future for himself at the Lilywhites.
A January 2016 signing from Manchester United, Pearson has developed his game over his five years at Deepdale to become one of the leading defensive midfielders in the second tier – his talent being so good that former North End striker Jermaine Beckford said last year that he could play for a ‘top six‘ Premier League team.
That is a bold opinion and it doesn’t look like that will be a move that Pearson will be making this year, but the North End number four has attracted interest from Premier League clubs in the last 18 months.
Lancashire neighbours Burnley were linked back in November 2019, but a fresh set of suitors have emerged this month with Celtic, Brentford and West Brom all in the hunt for Pearson’s signature according to the Daily Mail.
It’s Celtic though that are the only club out of the trio that can approach Pearson without having to deal with North End, as a pre-contract agreement could potentially be secured due to his current deal expiring in the summer.
And according to Anthony Joseph at SkySports, the Hoops have done just that, with initial contact being made for the man who is affectionately known as ‘Pearo’ on the terraces.
Quiz: The top 16 Preston North End record player departures – Which club did they join though?
Out of the three clubs linked with Pearson’s signature, a move to the green half of Glasgow looks to be the most tempting and he’s a natural replacement for Scott Brown in the engine room at Parkhead.
Brown is not getting any younger and will be 36 years old at the start of next season, and Pearson would bring the same passion and battling qualities to the team but with a better technical quality on the ball – including a superb range of passing.
Whilst Celtic do look solid enough in terms of depth in the centre of the park, the majority of those players are attacking-minded – and from what we’ve seen of Pearson over the last few years he is happy to just shield the Preston defence and hold his position.
Ismaila Soro seems to be the only other Celtic centre-midfielder who could potentially do that, but he’s still unproven on these shores and Pearson would fit seamlessly into the starting line-up and keep things ticking.
Pearson would no doubt consider Celtic to be a big step up from his current surroundings. Whilst the quality of the Scottish Premiership may not be as good overall as the EFL Championship, the prospect of Champions League or Europa League football every season – plus playing in-front of huge home crowds – is a massive draw for anyone considering signing for Celtic.
With Pearson’s situation now public, Celtic will have to move quickly to secure the signature of the former Manchester United Young Player of the Year if they want Scott Brown’s replacement for a cut-price fee – or even nothing at all.