Aston Villa are keeping tabs on Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse ahead of a potential summer offer, according to reports.
The English midfielder has made a name for himself as one of the best free-kick takers in the world, after netting another against Chelsea on Saturday.
Villa allegedly attempted to sign the 28-year-old back in 2021 and it looks like Unai Emery has reignited their interest.
Southampton are currently in the midst of a relegation battle, sitting bottom of the Premier League table after winning just five of their 23 opening games.
They are also yet to appoint a new manager after the sacking of Nathan Jones, so there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the south coast club at the moment.
If they are relegated to the Championship, the Saints may be forced to sell a lot of their prize assets and Ward-Prowse certainly fits into that category.
Even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a big fan of Ward-Prowse, previously saying: “They have the best free-kick taker I have seen in my life in [James] Ward-Prowse,” which is high praise indeed from someone who has coached the likes of Lionel Messi and Kevin de Bruyne.
Now, Villa have set their sights on the midfielder, who is valued at £35m, according to Transfermarkt.
Villa line up ambitious swoop for Ward-Prowse
This is according to Football Insider, who claim that Unai Emery is keeping tabs on Southampton’s star man.
Indeed, the Englishman has been one of the Saints’ few positives this season, after scoring eight goals in 29 appearances across all competitions.
Emery attempted to bring in a central midfielder in January after targeting former Arsenal man Matteo Guendouzi, but a deal with Marseille failed to materialise.
As mentioned, Villa have been linked with moves for Ward-Prowse in the past, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Midlands club do go back in for him this summer.
The 28-year-old spent eight years in Southampton’s youth system before making his senior debut at the age of 16 and he has now arguably become the club’s most important player.
In 12 years with the south coast team, Ward-Prowse has made 393 senior appearances overall, scoring 52 times and assisting another 52.
He has also chalked up 11 caps for England in his career so far, so there is no doubting his quality.
Emery’s first-choice midfielders this season have been Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara, whose form has been intermittent recently, so Ward-Prowse would provide some top-quality competition for them.
The Englishman’s contract at Southampton is set to expire in 2026, so the Saints aren’t under any immediate pressure to sell.
However, if they are relegated they could be forced to let him go, as they will need to rebuild their squad for the Championship and any funds they can recoup from player sales would help towards that.