It’s going to be a summer of change at Southampton following their relegation from the Premier League.
Newly-installed head coach Russell Martin is under no illusion and has likely planned life without several key personnel. Influential captain James Ward-Prowse has perhaps already played his final game.
The same could be said for 19-year-old Belgian defensive midfielder Romeo Lavia, who attracted plenty of attention last season. Reportedly from Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Their interest is said to have waned, but Lavia could still get a move with two other top-six rivals vying for his signature.
— Squawka (@Squawka) June 29, 2023
A graduate of Anderlecht’s youth academy, Lavia briefly spent time with Man City’s U23 team before earning a move to Southampton, where displays beyond his years earned plaudits.
“He’s 17 or 18 years old and how many minutes has he already played in the Premier League?” Pep Guardiola said following City’s win at Southampton last season.
“Alongside an experienced player in Ward-Prowse, very good. I’m very pleased because he’s a really nice guy and the potential we saw there was important. The problem is if he was still with us, then he was not going to play. So to have the opportunity to go in the Premier League with Southampton who work really well with the academy – what an opportunity. To play week in week out, for him and his experience, it will be amazing.”
So, what’s the story so far?
Who is interested in Romeo Lavia?
Three members of English football’s ‘Big Six’ were linked with Lavia’s signature last term. Heading into the 2023/24 season, there are two main contenders vying to become the Belgian’s next club. Arsenal and Liverpool both of whom have been strengthening their respective midfields this summer.
Declan Rice is soon-to-be the Gunners’ record signing while Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the addition of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai rejuvenates Liverpool after their disappointing 2022/23 campaign.
Liverpool are in the race for Romeo Lavia since Monday… and no changes despite Szoboszlai & Mac Allister incoming. ?? #LFC
Liverpool remain keen on signing Lavia, on list with Thuram.
Arsenal, still very interested — but it depends on Thomas exit.
Southampton want £50m fee. pic.twitter.com/4waeX8pSdH
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 2, 2023
However, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano, Arsenal’s bid will depend on Thomas Partey’s future.
Jacob Tanswell, who covers the Saints for the Athletic, told the Empire of the Kop Podcast that he feels Liverpool is Lavia’s “likely destination,” with the Reds reportedly preparing a bid.
Bookmaker bet365* has priced up the odds on Lavia’s next club as follows…
- Romeo Lavia club after summer transfer window to be Liverpool 10/11
- Chelsea 7/2
- Arsenal 4/1
If you’re over 18, you can view the markets and sign up to bet365 by following this link.
*Odds correct at time of publication (7pm, 04.07.23). For more information on responsible betting, visit begambleaware.org
How much will Lavia cost?
Given his age and transformative potential, Lavia will not be a cheap purchase. According to reports, Southampton are demanding £50m for a player with only one season of top-flight experience behind him.
Having joined for just £11m last summer, albeit the subject of a £50m deadline day bid from Chelsea in the same window, City have a £45m buyback clause for Lavia but that won’t come into effect until next summer. Hence why Liverpool and Arsenal want to get a move on.
Interestingly a report from Talksport suggests Chelsea’s co-director of recruitment and talent Joe Shields, who brought Lavia to Southampton before moving to Chelsea last October, recommended him to new manager Mauricio Pochettino. The Blues, though, are ‘looking at other targets to strengthen their midfield’, with Brighton star Moises Caicedo their major target to partner Enzo Fernandez.
When does Lavia’s contract run out?
Lavia’s present deal with Southampton expires in June 2027 meaning the relegated side possesses some leverage. If they are willing to sell this summer, which may be the case, then as touched upon they’ll make a tidy profit on the midfielder.
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What has Lavia said?
It’s fair to say Lavia has a good head on his shoulders.
“I don’t read it because I just don’t think about it. I just enjoy my football and focus on what we have to do as a club,” he told Sky Sports regarding ongoing reports about his future.
“Whatever is outside, it is not what I can control, so I don’t pay attention to that. Football, with how it goes, it goes so fast. One moment you can be in the headlines and the next, you’re not. So the only thing to do is just be neutral, don’t think about it and get your head down and work.”
Why are Liverpool and Arsenal trying to sign Lavia?
The two linked clubs have already spent, or are in the process of spending, significant sums on midfielders. So why might they want Lavia too?
Liverpool fans were critical of their club for failing to invest in new midfielders this summer, given issues with fitness and quality in that area. James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have since left the club on free transfers, meaning despite buying Szoboszlai and Mac Allister they are actually down in terms of depth. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson and Thiago are both linked with moves to is linked to Saudi Arabia.
Arsenal, as mentioned above, may be motivated by the prospect of selling Thomas Partey.
Lavia’s most appealing attributes include his ball-winning ability. In his first full season at senior level, he regained possession in the middle third more than any other player aged under 20 across Europe’s top five leagues, including former Liverpool target Jude Bellingham.
Will Liverpool sign a Fabinho replacement?
Here’s how the radar looks with Roméo Lavia, Manu Koné and Khphrén Thuram.
Thuram does not quite fit the profile… pic.twitter.com/ZZKlW8X9qo
— Squawka (@Squawka) July 2, 2023
His ability to retain the ball under pressure is demonstrated by the number of fouls he wins and dribbles he completes, and has led certain members among the Squawka team to dub him heir to former Spurs and Belgium midfielder Mousa Dembele.