Southampton are now the favourites to sign £18 million Weston McKennie with coach Ralph Hasenhuttl closing in on a player he has wanted for years, according to the Express.
Given the popularity for adaptable, box-to-box midfielders in the modern game, it is no surprise that the Washington-born 21-year-old has offers from all over the Premier League.
Everton, Newcastle United, Leicester City and even champions Liverpool have been linked over the last month or so.
And cash-strapped Schalke, who have recently introduced a salary cap, may have no choice but to sell their most consistent performer, given that the Bundesliga’s perennial underachievers need the funds.
Southampton will know, in their heart of hearts, that former captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has played his final game in red and white.
The Danish international has just one year left on his contract, and the Saints seem to be fighting a losing battle as they look to keep the Everton and Tottenham Hotspur target at St Mary’s.
The more defensively minded McKennie would not exactly be a like-for-like replacement, but the all-action American sensation would bring some much needed steel and energy to the engine room in the post-Hojbjerg era.
“In the No.6 or No.8 position he has the mentality, a real working mentality that you need. And he’s brave on the ball as well.”
The Express adds that Southampton, despite leading the race at present, will not make a bid for McKennie until Hojbjerg is posing for photos in north London or on the blue half of Merseyside.
What’s more, Hasenhuttl appears to be driving the interest.
The so-called ‘Alpine Klopp’ has been tracking McKennie since his time in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig, with the 21-year-old an epitome of the hungry young talent who tends to thrive under Hasenhuttl.