Thursday 8 December 2016

Shane Long set for competition at Southampton with club preparing to smash transfer record

Jeremy Wilson

Published 25/08/2016 | 10:39

Sofiane Boufal celebrates after scoring for Lille last season. Credit: getty images
Sofiane Boufal celebrates after scoring for Lille last season. Credit: getty images

Southampton are poised to break their transfer record after agreeing a £21.2 million (25 million euros) fee with Lille for Morocco forward Sofiane Boufal.

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Their previous record is the £15 million that was paid for Dani Osvaldo, but agreement has now been reached with Claude Puel’s former club Lille for the 22-year-old Boufal.

The deal is expected to be completed early next week and will also allow Jay Rodriguez to move to West Bromwich Albion on loan.

Boufal, who can play either out wide or as a Number 10, scored 11 goals last season in what was his breakthrough season in Ligue 1 but has been out with a knee injury since May and is not expected to return until next month.

Born in Paris to Moroccan parents, he came through the youth system at Angers before moving to Lille in January 2015 where he won the award for Best African Player in Ligue 1.

The imminent arrival of Boufal follows the sales this summer of Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. Southampton added Charlie Austin in January as well as Nathan Redmond this summer, while Wanyame was replaced by the former Bayern Munich midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Southampton are also adamant that Jose Fonte will not be sold amid interest from Manchester United, with the club captain having been offered a new contract worth around £70,000-a-week.

United have not as yet made any contact with Southampton over Fonte but Jose Mourinho is believed still to be looking for one more centre-back to complete his squad. After yet another spending spree this summer, United are now looking first to sell before they buy and so an offer for Fonte is more likely very late in the transfer window if they have offloaded some players.

Fonte has played more than 250 games for Southampton since joining from Crystal Palace for £800,000 in 2010 and has established himself over the past four years as one of the most reliable centre-backs in the Premier League.

Telegraph.co.uk

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