Southampton have signed highly-rated 17-year-old defender Thierry Small from Everton.
The left-back, who came through the academy at Goodison Park, has agreed a three-year contract with Saints. He reportedly rejected permanent terms with the Merseyside club due to wanting more opportunities to play first-team football.
“I am very pleased we have been able to bring in another talented young player. Especially when there were again a number of clubs who were interested,” Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said.
“I think our philosophy of how we develop these young players and give them their opportunities has been an important factor in this, and we are looking forward to working with Thierry and helping him make the most of his potential.
“We have already signed a player this summer with good experience at left-back in Romain Perraud. And Thierry’s arrival now gives us a very good balance and a strong additional option in that position, and this is encouraging that we now have this on both sides of our defence.”
Small, who has also played as a central defender and left winger during his fledgling career, wrote his name into the Everton history books earlier this year when he made his debut in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday at the age of just 16 years and 176 days to become the Toffees’ youngest ever senior player.
On his move to St Mary’s, Small said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling. A big moment for me and my family, especially to join such a family-orientated club. It’s an honour to be here and I can’t wait to get started.
“When I came to visit I thought this is the best place for me to develop as a player and reach new levels to my game.”
Small cancelled his two-year scholarship at Everton – clearing the path for other clubs to sign him.
Everton will be entitled to a compensation fee for the youngster.
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.