INTEREST in Oldham Athletic ace Benny Couto is hotting up, with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United the latest to join the race for the teenager's signature.

An unnamed Premier League club last week had a bid rejected, and it is unlikely to be the last offer with the versatile left back being scouted by clubs in the top two divisions domestically and abroad, with interest from clubs in Spain and Portugal, where Couto was born.

The 18-year-old broke into the first team earlier this season and is understood to be keen to see out the season with Latics to help boost their fight for Football League survival, so the option or returning to Boundary Park would appeal.

The Oldham Times understands that most clubs who have expressed an interest in signing Couto would be open to this option, although not all of them.

But such is the level of interest in the Academy product there is no need for the player, or the club, to rush into a decision.

Latics are understood to be looking for a deal worth around £1million for their rising star, who was given his first team debut by then manager Keith Curle in the first Papa John's Trophy group game in August.

The number of Covid and injury absences at the time undoubtedly accelerated the youngster's path to the first team, but Couto earned praised for seizing his opportunity to establish himself in the senior squad.

After initially having question marks about Couto's credentials as a professional footballer, Curle was particularly impressed with the youngster's focus and dedication, going on to award him his first senior contract in October.

At the time, Curle said: "I go back to last season when I watched Benny and maturity wise and mentally he wasn't in the place that he needed to be.

"He had a summer to reflect on it and did a lot of work in the summer physically and came back in very good shape.

"The mental attitude that he needed to be progressive at this football club, that shone through and he got the rewards immediately by being invited to come up and train with us. And in a short period of time you're thinking, 'this lad's got a chance'.

"He got selected for the cup game then made his league debut against Rochdale, and you're thinking 'this lad's got a bright future'.

"He has got the attributes we need and his mentality is growing and growing and growing, his maturity level is growing, and the kid has got ability.

"He wants to learn and he wants to listen."