Leicester City are leading Celtic in the hunt to sign Carlisle United defender Jarrad Branthwaite in January, Football Insider can reveal.

The centre-back, 17, has caught the eye of scouts north and south of the border after breaking into the League Two club’s starting XI this season.

A Leicester source has told Football Insider the club and their manager Brendan Rodgers are confident they are in pole position to agree a deal for Branthwaite.

Scouts from the Premier League title chasers have been keeping regular checks on Branthwaite since October and they are ready to firm up their interest when the transfer window reopens in January.

Rodgers and the Leicester recruitment team regard Branthwaite as a potential star in the making and they are keen to blow their rivals out of the water in the race for his signature.

As revealed by Football Insider, Celtic and Aston Villa – as well as Newcastle United – have been keeping close tabs on the teenager.

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Branthwaite has made 13 appearances in all competitions so far this season and is also Carlisle’s youngest-ever goalscorer after netting against Morecambe in the EFL Trophy last month.

Branthwaite, who does not turn 18 until next June, already cuts an imposing figure despite his age and stands at 6ft 4in.

Rangers

He has progressed through the ranks at Carlisle, joining the club at the age of eight before eventually establishing himself at senior level.

He signed a two-year contract with an option at the end of February 2019, which ties him to Carlisle until the summer of 2021.

In other Rangers news, it can be REVEALED that the club have opened preliminary talks on signing Premier League player in January.