Southampton would no doubt have been disappointed to miss out on Nicolae Stanciu last summer. Sport reported that The Saints were closing to sealing a bargain £7 million move for a forward who had netted 14 goals and produced another 11 assists in an inspired season for Steaua Bucharest.
However, few expected one of Eastern Europe’s brightest talents to choose Belgian giants Anderlecht over interest from the continent’s most competitive league. According to L’Equipe, Stanciu (above) eclipsed Stephen Defour as the most expensive signing in Anderlecht’s history.
Southampton, in the meantime, have stuttered through the season with the league’s fifth worst scoring record. Although it will surely not have passed them by that Steaua’s outspoken owner, George Becali, insists the club’s latest rising star is even more talented.
According to the Daily Record, versatile 23-year-old Ovidiu Popescu has an £8 million buyout clause and could be on his way out in the summer.
“Anderlecht paid us £8million for Nicolae Stanciu and Ovidiu is just as good...probably better actually,” Becali said. "I told him within a year or two I would guarantee him a move to a big club in Europe and that's what will happen.
"He's the most exciting player to come from Romania in years. He's not going to be sold for nothing."
Therefore, perhaps Southampton should get Bucharest on the blower again this summer. Popescu may not be a creative player or a regular goalscorer like his former team-mate Stanciu but his ability to play in midfield or at right-back should intrigue Claude Puel.
After all, Southampton need reinforcements at full-back with Cuco Martina out of contract in the summer.
And the pulling power of a team that has just cruised to the league title with the enigmatic Brendan Rodgers at the helm could give Celtic an advantage, regardless of the fact they won’t be able to offer the glamour or the wages available in the Premier League.
However, Southampton have rightly earned a reputation for acting astutely in the transfer market and swooping for Popescu would represent another victory for their esteemed scouting department.