Premier League club Southampton are lining up a move for Nottingham Forest centre-back Joe Worrall, according to Hampshire Live.
The 24-year-old has already been the subject of interest from fellow top-flight sides Burnley, Norwich City, West Ham United and Crystal Palace this summer after becoming a key part of a defence that conceded just 45 goals in 46 league games last term.
But with Jannik Vestergaard securing a £15m move to league rivals Leicester City last week, it’s Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men who are perhaps the most desperate for a centre-back at this current stage and they have identified Worrall as a potential replacement for the Dane.
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The Forest star only made 31 Championship appearances last term, largely due to a foot injury that kept him out of the start of the East Midland’s side’s season where their lost their four opening second-tier games and struggled heavily without his presence at the back.
And similarly this season, Worrall has been absent from their first two league games due to a calf injury, something that has slowed down any potential exit from the City Ground.
Although the latter part is good news for Chris Hughton’s side, his absence has been sorely felt again and they are yet to get a point on the board so far this term.
However, he could potentially leave before the end of August despite also being a major doubt for Forest’s next game on Wednesday, with the transfer window not closing for another fortnight and the central defender set to return before then.
From conceding at a rate of less than a goal per game last term to conceding four in the opening two league games, it just goes to show how important he is to Chris Hughton and he was a big reason why they avoided a major relegation scrap last season.
Scoring 37 goals in a 46-game season would usually get you relegated. Even all three relegated sides from last season in Wycombe Wanderers, Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday scored more than that.
But their defensive solidity kept them afloat in the Championship and without Worrall, the East Midlands side may not be able to count on their defence to get them out of trouble anymore. Just look at their backline in the past couple of games without him.
This just goes to show how good this signing could be for the Saints, who will be keen to bolster their defence now they have gone ahead and strengthened their attack with Blackburn Rovers’ Adam Armstrong.
Many Southampton fans will worry about whether the centre-back will be able to make the step up to the Premier League, but at 24, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and he will only get better with more experience in the top flight.