Premier League outfits Watford and Everton have bid for Carlisle United’s teenage star Jarrad Branthwaite, the News & Star understands.

Sources have told us that the Hornets - 19th in the top flight and managed by ex-United boss Nigel Pearson - have approached United.

And it is also believed that Everton, long linked with the 17-year-old defender, have now formally joined the race.

It comes as speculation continues around the young Cumbrian, who has been heavily scouted by big clubs this season.

United have not made any comment.

The Mail today claimed Everton have had a £500,000 bid turned down and the News & Star understands the Goodison Park club have indeed made an offer.

The Wigton teenager has been sidelined for Carlisle’s last two games, boss Chris Beech saying the centre-half has a thigh strain.

United are understood to have offered Branthwaite a new deal several weeks ago. He is already under contract until the summer of 2021.

When the contract and Watford topics were put to head coach Beech last night, he said: “I have no comment really, because I have no information for you.”

Carlisle, meanwhile, today said they do not comment on individual contract situations or transfer rumours.

Speculation is likely to surround Branthwaite whilst the January transfer window remains open. Reports last week credited Liverpool and Chelsea with interest in the Cumbrian, with Rangers, Celtic, Manchester City, Leicester, Arsenal and Newcastle among those also thought to have scouted him.

A host of scouts were at Crewe on Wednesday, but they were unable to watch Branthwaite, who travelled with the squad but was not involved.

Beech said: “Jarrad was due to play against Walsall [on Sunday] but the day before the game his thigh tightened up.

“He’s had it scanned and the little strain is there – he’s not available.”

Asked if the injury could potentially be a problem that keeps Branthwaite out for longer, including Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Cardiff, Beech said: “It could be. I don’t know. These strains on those groin muscles, because he’s not fully developed as a physical person, he’s still growing…but because of the blood and where it is, [hopefully] it will heal quick.”

Beech said he had met Branthwaite’s parents on Saturday. He said: “I’d not met them since I’ve come in, and [with Jarrad] being under 18, it’s important to get to know the family.”

The teenager has made 14 appearances this season and in November became United’s youngest ever goalscorer.

United's director of football David Holdsworth recently insisted Carlisle had not struck any advance agreements with another club over the defender's future.

He said Branthwaite was a player with a "great future" who had the potential to play at the highest level. Speaking in October, Holdsworth said: "I know there are a number of clubs who are looking at maybe one or two of [our] youngsters, I’d be silly not to know that, but if they want to take Branthwaite then they’re going to have to offer a lot of money for him.

“I see him as potentially a top player if he keeps his attitude right.”