Southampton have rejected a £25m bid from Aston Villa for midfielder and captain James Ward-Prowse.
It was revealed in early June that Villa are keen to strike a deal for Ward-Prowse, whom manager Dean Smith has identified as a priority target because of both his Premier League experience and the fact that he would not have to adapt to life in England.
However, things are back at a stand-still again as Southampton turned the offer down immediately. The Saints were almost offended by the value of the bid and it was stressed that Villa would need to do far better if Southampton were to even consider selling Ward-Prowse.
Villa are expected to return with a second offer, but just how much they are prepared to pay for Ward-Prowse is unclear. They have already splashed out £33m on Emi Buendia and may need to offer more than that to land the Saints captain, who still has four years left on his contract.
There is no suggestion that Villa will walk away from this deal without putting up a fight. Club analysts have put together plenty of data to prove just how impactful Ward-Prowse would be on the squad and there is a feeling that Smith really wants to land the 26-year-old in time for the new season.
Unfortunately for Smith, Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl is just as determined to keep hold of Ward-Prowse. He has already confirmed that he wants more depth in central midfield and will be reluctant to lose such an important part of his squad to a direct rival.
It’s worth noting that Villa’s pursuit of Ward-Prowse has nothing to do with the future of Jack Grealish, who has been offered a new contract but is also being chased by Manchester City.
City have lodged a £100m bid for Grealish and hope to convince him to leave his boyhood side, and although Villa would likely need to replace the Englishman if he does leave, the interest in Ward-Prowse dates back well before this bid arrived.