Southampton could take advantage of Everton’s inability to tie Thierry Small down to a new contract by making a move for the full-back, according to reports.
Small became Everton’s youngest ever debutant in an FA Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday in January. Since then, a number of clubs have been monitoring his progress. He is yet to add to his maiden first-team appearance, but other clubs can see a pathway for him.
As recently as last month, it was claimed that Manchester United and Arsenal were leading the race to sign him. But previous reports suggested he would prefer to move somewhere like Leeds, who were also said to be keen in April.
The teenager is clearly weighing up the best option for his development, which may not be to join one of the top club straight away. But he has suitors elsewhere in the Premier League who could provide him with a route to senior football over the medium-term.
According to Hampshire Live, Southampton are one such team. Saints have already bolstered their ranks with youngsters from other clubs this summer – for example, Dynel Simeu and Tino Livramento from Chelsea’s under-23s. Small could be the next they look to add.
The report claims he would become part of their B team to start with, but first-team opportunities may come quicker than elsewhere. At present, Southampton’s only senior left-back is Romain Perraud after the summer release of Ryan Bertrand.
Moussa Djenepo has also provided cover in that position on occasion, but is more at home on the wing. Therefore, it could help Southampton to find more natural depth for the role.
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Small has thus become a potential target, given that his Everton contract expires in 2022 and he is stalling on a renewal. He fits Ralph Hasenhuttl’s criteria of wanting a young player, rather than an instant first-team reinforcement, in that role.
The report adds that the only area Hasenhuttl is looking to strengthen his starting lineup is at centre-back. Saints need a replacement for Jannik Vestergaard, who joined Leicester City recently.
In other areas, including left-back, they are willing to look to the future. Small is therefore within their transfer plans.
Hampshire Live believe a deal could cost Southampton around £5m in compensation. Furthermore, a move across England is more likely despite Small having suitors abroad.
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Coincidentally, Everton and Southampton faced off in the first match of the Premier League season, which the Toffees won 3-1. In addition to that battle and the tug of war for Small, they seem to be rivals for another transfer too.
It was recently claimed by the Daily Mail that the two clubs are suitors for Sean Longstaff, who may be on his way out of Newcastle.
After making his breakthrough a few years ago, Longstaff’s market value has dropped from what it once was. The Mail claimed he could be available for around £10m.
Rafael Benitez gave Longstaff his senior debut at Newcastle and could seek a reunion. However, Southampton are also keen – despite signing James Ward-Prowse to a new contract.
Given what Hampshire Live say about Hasenhuttl only wanting a centre-back now, perhaps Everton would be the likelier destination if Longstaff is to leave Newcastle.
He is out of contract next summer, pointing to a potential sale this month. After making just 15 Premier League starts last season, he may be ready for a new challenge.