Everton's Dutch international defender Johnny Heitinga may opt to sign for Newcastle United rather than face a relegation struggle with West Ham.
That's the fear at Upton Park, where Sam Allardyce's side has been ravaged by injuries to key defenders. The Hammers boss has already admitted that he has missed out on more than half of his transfer targets - but he was convinced he had landed Heitinga.
Allardyce virtually announced that he was about to sign Heitinga to relieve his under-pressure team which has now run out of defenders as well as goalscorers.
But BT Sport can reveal that, just as the transfer window opens for business, Heitinga is threatening a U-turn and switching to the north east instead of joining the east London club as planned.
The unhappy Hammers already have a deluge of injuries, mostly concentrated at centre half, with James Tomkins and James Collins both ruled out.
Allardyce said only 48 hours ago that a deal for the 30-year-old Dutch international could be completed soon, but they are now fighting other clubs - including Roma and Newcastle - for his signature.
Yet Allardyce was confident the defender was heading to Upton Park when he said: "We've had the OK from Everton and we're talking to his agent at the moment so hopefully that will happen in the next day or so."
Heitinga has not played in the Premier League for Everton this season, and manager Roberto Martinez has agreed to release him.
Martinez would ideally like Heitinga to stay on, but he has expressed hope of helping the Dutchman find a fresh start in a World Cup year.
The Toffees signed him from Atletico Madrid for £7million in 2009, but he is available for a knock-down price, or as a loan transfer.
Roma have also been linked with a move for Heitinga, but interest from Newcastle United has come out of leftfield.
A West Ham insider told BT Sport on Tuesday: “It looks like Heitinga has ducked on us and, we think, decided to go to Newcastle.”
Heitinga is keen to secure regular first-team football to boost his chances of being named in the Dutch squad, and indicated he was interested in West Ham, which raised Allardyce’s hopes.
"I am flattered with the interest of West Ham," he told Voetbal International.
"Since this week the market is open and it's clear that I have to make an important decision.
"The chance of playing more minutes is the most important. I want to be at the World Cup and, to realise that, I have to play. Only then can I make it difficult for [Netherlands coach] Louis van Gaal."