Southampton are chasing Barcelona defender Marlon Santos and according to reports in Spain, are not far away from completing a deal.

Spanish newspaper SPORT claims the Brazilian has decided to sign with the Saints instead of West Ham United.

Manager Mark Hughes, who successfully steered Southampton away from relegation at the end of last season, continues to work on his squad ahead of the new season.

He has already brought in goalkeeper Angus Gunn from Manchester City, midfielder Stuart Armstrong from Celtic and winger Mohamed Elyounoussi from FC Basel.

However, Hughes wants to bolster his defence having let Florin Gardos and Jeremy Pied leave the club.

Since Virgil Van Dijk’s departure for Liverpool in January, Southampton have struggled at the back, conceding 56 goals during last season’s Premier League campaign.

And although he already has centre-backs Jan Bednarek, Wesley Hoedt, Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida on the books, he is keen to add reinforcements.

Southampton remain strongly linked with Denmark international Jannik Vestergaard with some reports claiming that an £18 million deal is almost done.

Santos, a Brazil Under-20 international, has made just three appearances for Barcelona since moving from Fluminense and spent last season on loan with OCG Nice.

The 22-year-old impressed during his time in France and that has alerted other clubs to his availability.

Despite having a contract with Barcelona until the end of the 2020 season, he now looks certain to be leaving the Nou Camp.

New Nice boss Patrick Vieira does not see him as part of his plans, which opened the door for clubs in England.

According to the report, Southampton will pay the Catalan giants around €12 million (£10.6 million) as well as performance-related bonuses.

Santos’ arrival would certainly strengthen Hughes’ defence but it could also raise questions about the future of some of the players already at the club.

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