Ronald Koeman is preparing to offer exciting academy product Matt Targett the chance to replace fellow graduate Luke Shaw in the Southampton team following his predecessor's £30 million transfer to Manchester United. The 18-year-old - who has already attracted admiring glances from Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool - will have an opportunity to impress the new management team at St Mary's during pre-season with a view to starting the 2014/15 campaign as first-choice left-back.
Sky Sports reports how the England youth international, who is also tipped for a bright future in the game, could become a ready-made replacement for the new Red Devils star, and save Saints the trouble of scouring the transfer market for a successor.
Southampton's philosophy of developing young talent and providing a clear pathway to the senior team has been well documented in recent years after the emergence of a number of exciting stars.
Arsenal duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana and the aforementioned Manchester United man Shaw all came through the south coast club's youth team ranks in recent years before moving on to bigger clubs.
Saints production line keeps producing
However, the loss of such players has not deterred Southampton from continuing to nurture the next batch of stars, and Targett represents the latest in a growing list of scholars set to be promoted to the first-team.
The likes of James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Sam Gallagher, and Harrison Reed are all pushing for inclusion in the starting XI, and will go a long way to ensuring that Saints fans enjoy another exciting season of Premier League football, providing they can keep the Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool vultures away.
Brendan Rodgers has already nabbed veteran striker Rickie Lambert and former captain Lallana this summer and is rumoured to be keen on bringing Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren to Anfield as well.
Future Luke Shaw?
The Reds have also been mooted as admirers of Targett, and will be watching on with interest to see how he progresses during the campaign. They could face competition for his signature from the likes of Chelsea, who, after failing in their attempts to beat Manchester United to Shaw, are still on the lookout for a new long-term left-back to fill the void left by Ashley Cole when he departed Stamford Bridge upon the expiry of his contract this summer.
Arsene Wenger is believed to be another suitor of the teen talent, and he can boast a fine record of identifying promising players and developing them into stars of the future. His more immediate attention on Southampton focuses on defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, as well as fellow full-back Chambers, who impressed on the right side of defence during his breakthrough campaign last term.
Judging by the huge level of interest, Targett could well be the next big star off the club's esteemed production line, but not before he has been tied down to a new and improved long-term contract to ensure that when a big club does come calling Southampton will be able to extract the same sort of money that Manchester United were forced to pay to take Shaw to Old Trafford, having served less than 12 months of his five-year deal.