Star midfielder Mario Lemina looks set to leave Juventus but there has been confusion over which club he will join, with Southampton and Stoke City both accredited with an interest in him.
Bianconeri head coach Max Allegri spoke to the press after his team’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley and confirmed that the 23-year-old would be departing shortly, though the exact destination of the player remains undecided.
“We will see what happens. We are in talks with several clubs,” said the Italian.
“For the moment Lemina is still a Juventus player.”
A few days ago, Sky Sports reported that the promising youngster was the focus of talks between the Italian champions and Stoke City over a £13.5 million deal.
Potters’ manager Mark Hughes seemed to confirm his interest in the player when quizzed about the speculation surrounding another reported target, Schalke’s Eric Maxime Choupu-Moting.
“You can never say it’s done until it is. I’ve had experiences where clubs have just jumped in at the last moment when you’ve done all the work and they’re able to convince players. We’ll just hang fire until it’s actually official,” Hughes told The Sentinel in the wake of his side’s 2-1 friendly win at Red Bull Leipzig.
“There’s possibly something in that (Stoke interest),” the Stoke boss said of Lemina.
“I refer you to my last answer.”
The former Blackburn coach seems to have been referring to a potential hijacking of the deal by Premier League rivals Southampton.
The Gabonese international has apparently all-but finalised his £18m switch to the St. Mary’s Stadium, according to The Guardian.
However, Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino confused the situation by suggesting that he knew nothing about the deal, in comments made after Southampton’s 2-0 friendly win over Sevilla yesterday.
“I don’t know anything about him (Lemina),” admitted the Argentine in a post-match interview.
“We are studying the market with some options.”
The Potters look short of genuine quality in the centre of midfield. Summer signing Darren Fletcher, Joe Allen and the fading Charlie Adam offer plenty of grit and experience but lack creative spark. There are also still question marks over the future of Lemina’s former Marseille team-mate Giannelli Imbula.
The Juventus youngster is known for his composure on the ball and his ability to turn defence into attack quickly as a box-to-box midfielder and is sure to make a big impact in North Staffordshire.
Southampton already boast numerous options in the centre of the park with club captain Steven Davis, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, James Ward-Prowse, Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu all vying for a starting spot. However, they would still benefit from the excitement and drive that Lemina provides.
The next few days should reveal where the starlet decides to play his football next season but both Stoke and Southampton will be eager to move quickly to allow him to settle before the campaign begins this weekend.