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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.

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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.

“(McKennie) is an outstanding talent,” Schalke boss David Wagner told Fox recently, via the Bundesliga website.

Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images

“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.

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