Southampton are confident the scale of top Premier League interest in Romeo Lavia will ensure they receive close to their £50m valuation of the teenager, but there is hesitancy from suitors over the fee.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have all engaged the midfielder’s representatives over a potential transfer this summer.
It is understood that the latter two are unwilling to bid that high given their expenditure already, as well as the fact priorities have been elsewhere.
Getting the Declan Rice deal over the line has been Mikel Arteta’s core focus in the centre of the park with Arsenal having to blitz their previous transfer record of £72m to land West Ham United’s captain for £105m.
They have already signed Kai Havertz with Jurrien Timber set to follow. Attention is now expected to switch to Lavia in the knowledge that there is stiff competition for his signature, but Arsenal are conscious of their spending and have alternative targets.
Liverpool, who are undergoing a midfield rebuild which has included the additions of Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister, view Lavia as a long-term anchor.
However, there would need to be a significant dent in Southampton’s asking price for the Belgium international, who would also need to make clear Anfield is his destination of choice.
Liverpool’s approach this summer has been to extract value for the right profile despite an inflated market and pursue ‘clean’ deals that do not involve bidding wars or become drawn out.
The club’s stance is there would need to be outgoings in midfield first – Thiago is attracting widespread interest – before they sign another player for that department.
Liverpool’s ideal is for a third fresh recruit there and if circumstances align a signing could happen regardless of exits.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are working on an agreement with Brighton for Moises Caicedo. They are still concentrating on trimming a bloated squad but have not concealed their interest in Lavia.
Southampton are resigned to losing the 19-year-old in this window, but it won’t be on the cheap.
They believe Lavia has the potential to develop into one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, which they feel is evidenced by the clubs looking at him.
Manchester City, meanwhile, will bank 20 per cent of the selling fee as part of the transfer they negotiated with Southampton a year ago.
They also have the opportunity to match any bids for Lavia and have a buy-back clause which is understood to only become active in 2024.
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