Ajax appear to have pipped Southampton to the signing of Heerenveen star Kik Pierie.
The Saints had been linked with a move for the promising centre-back, whose performances in Eredivisie this season have earned him plenty of admirers from across Europe.
Pierie, 18, is an established member of Heerenveen’s starting line-up and is regarded as one of Netherlands’ most exciting up and coming young defenders.
Southampton were understood to have entered the race to sign him during the summer transfer window, but leading Dutch news outlet De Telegraaf claims that he has already put pen to paper on a deal with Ajax.
The Champions League quarter-finalists are likely to be forced to cough up a fee worth just €4 million for the signing of Pierie, who is said to have visited the Amsterdam club for talks on Thursday.
Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt has been heavily linked with a move away from the club this summer, and it seems they are making contingency plans ahead of his possible departure.
Why Saints should sign a new centre-back this summer
Following Wesley Hoedt’s January loan exit, Southampton have been left with only four central defenders. For a manager like Ralph Hasenhuttl who has favoured using three centre-backs, this is insufficient.
Southampton’s centre-backs have improved of late, but there is still a sense of caution when they are in possession or put under the cosh. Another reliable option, even as a backup, would be beneficial.
Maya Yoshida still has plenty to offer at Southampton but seeking a long-term replacement for the 30-year-old certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Southampton have kept only seven clean sheets this season, and lapses of concentration at the back have cost them despite the recent improvement. The defensive woes that have hurt the team in the past two seasons must be appropriately remedied this time around.