Southampton are ready to break their transfer record if it means securing the permanent services of Toby Alderweireld after it emerged the south coast club would be willing to pay £18 million for the Atletico Madrid defender's signature.
According to the Daily Mirror, the Belgium international is so highly regarded by Saints boss Ronald Koeman that he's already advised senior officials at St Mary's to do whatever it takes to get him back again next term.
Alderweireld spent the 2014/15 campaign in the Premier League on a season-long loan with Southampton, and has made no secret of his desire to make the switch to England's top-flight permanent.
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However, it seems that the 26-year-old has sights set on joining a Champions League club - or another outfit playing, like Koeman's side, in the Europa League - with newly-crowned champions Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur both mooted as admirers.
Jose Mourinho appears to be in no rush when it comes to formalising the Belgian's move to Stamford Bridge, though, with doubts about whether he would actually be able to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the Blues team.
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A player plus-cash deal involving left-back Filipe Luis returning to the Vicente Calderon has been mentioned as one possibility as Diego Simeone is keen to be reunited with the Brazilian in Spain.
However, Mourinho is still understood to be assessing his options as he weighs up other possible defensive targets ahead of the transfer window reopening in just over one week's time.
Spurs would probably be able to offer Alderweireld more regular action at White Hart Lane, as well as the opportunity to play alongside compatriot and international team-mate Jan Vertonghen, which would strengthen the Atletico outcast's case for a place in Marc Wilmots' Red Devils squad for the European Championships next summer.
Mauricio Pochettino is thought to be a big fan of the versatile star after he performed so well at centre-back, right-back and in a slightly more advanced defensive midfield position for his former employers last year.
That's another reason why Southampton are ready to invest so much money in a player that made 26 league starts and helped the club keep 15 clean sheets en route to an impressive seventh place finish in the Premier League.
His partnership with Saints captain Jose Fonte is something else Koeman hopes to be able to rely upon again in 2015/16, so usurping the £15 million fee the club paid to bring bad-boy Dani Osvaldo to Hampshire from Serie 'A' side AS Roma in Italy two years ago is the requirement to do so.
Southampton fans: Would you be happy to see the club pay a record fee to bring Toby Alderweireld back to St Mary's permanently this summer? How big a role did he play during 2014/15? Have your say below…
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