Malta forward Udo Nwoko is on the verge of landing a lucrative move to the English Premier League after it emerged that Reading are in advanced talks with Portuguese club Leixoes to sign the Nigerian-born stalwart.

Reports in the English media yesterday said Nwoko, who only joined Leixoes from Maltese club Hibernians last summer, has already passed a medical at The Madejski Stadium, leaving Reading with the onus of agreeing a reported £1.25 million (€1.7m) fee with the Portuguese club.

"I hope the deal can be completed," Nwoko was quoted as saying in The Daily Mirror.

"Reading is a sensational club who would make me very welcome."

Nwoko, who moved to Malta at the tender age of 14 and was granted Maltese citizenship earlier this year, has come through the youth ranks of Hibernians.

Apart from his long association with the Paolites, where he initially struggled to hold down a regular place in the first team, the 23-year-old has also had short spells with Mosta, Marsaxlokk and Xewkija Tigers in Gozo.

Not so long ago, Nwoko was being linked with a switch to Scottish club Falkirk and also had a trial with Portuguese top-division club Uniao Leiria before accepting the offer to join Leixoes last summer after the latter gained promotion to the country's elite division.

Nwoko, a speedy and agile player who prefers to play off the main strikers, has already been capped four times for Malta. He made his debut as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 defeat away to Hungary in a Euro 2008 qualifier last October. Nwoko made another cameo appearance in the 3-2 home defeat to Moldova but started Malta's final two Euro 2008 qualifiers, away to Greece (0-5) and at home to Norway (1-4).

According to reports in England, Middlesbrough were also keeping tabs on Nwoko who captured the headlines in Portugal last summer after hitting an injury-time equaliser for Leixoes in their 1-1 draw with Benfica.

It has also been reported that a Reading scout was in Athens last month to watch Nwoko play for Malta in their Euro 2008 qualifier against Greece. Reading also kept a close eye on Nwoko during Leixoes's league match with Boavista.

Nwoko's expected arrival at Reading could hasten the departure of England Under-21 striker Leroy Lita, who already finds himself fourth choice under Steve Coppell.

Earlier this season, reports also claimed that Reading were pondering a move for Maltese striker Michael Mifsud in light of the latter's scoring impact for Coventry City in The Championship.

After their excellent eighth-place finish in their debut season in the Premier League, Reading endured a difficult start this term. An improvement in their performances and results in the last two months saw Reading climb up the table where they currently lie 12th on 22 points, one ahead of Tottenham Hotspur.

Meanwhile, sources also told The Times yesterday that Norwegian club Rosenborg are to send their representatives to Malta to run the rule over Frank Temile, Valletta's talented Nigerian forward.

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