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Southampton are desperately trying to shake off their ‘selling club’ status and have so far kept hold of their key centre-back Virgil Van Dijk, despite him handing in a transfer request amidst strong interest from Premier League big guns. Also, they have brought in former Alaves boss Mauricio Pellegrino (replacing Frenchman Claude Puel) following his highly impressive campaign at La Liga. The gaffer, however, is keen to improve their 8th-placed league finish from last season and challenge for a place in European football.
Although the Saints have made a steady start to their new Premier League campaign, Pellegrino is concerned about his back-line following the departure of Jose Fonte back in January and the unwillingness of Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk to continue at St. Mary’s. They have been left with Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens as central defensive options, whereas new signing Jan Bedranek, the Polish youth international, is too young to serve the immediate purpose.
Southampton, known for their youth setup and scouting network, have reportedly agreed terms with Lazio for the £17m transfer of defender Wesley Hoedt. It’s pretty unsure if he has been brought in to replace Van Dijk or to partner him in the heart of the Southampton defence. But the 23-year-old Dutchman is a quality recruit, who was one of Serie A’s best centre-backs last season.
“He requested to be transferred. He wants to be a starter in England and will be transferred to Southampton in the near future. He has had a positive experience here in Rome. I wish him all the best.”
Lazio sporting director Ighli Tare has confirmed Hoedts’ egress in an interview with Italian broadcaster Premium Sport (h/t Sky Sports).
Hoedt progressed through the youth ranks of Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar and flourished under current Netherlands boss Dick Advocaat before completing a move to Lazio a couple of years back. He is hailed for his strong aerial presence as he holds 86.6% success rate in the air. He is known for constructing moves from the deep with his strong physicality, vision, and range of passing, much similar to what Van Dijk is valued for.
Despite lacking the pace and having limitations with his weaker (right) foot, the Dutch international is also capable of playing as a left-back and that defines his versatility of playing multiple defensive roles.
Southampton’s current defensive pair of Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens have done a decent job since the second half of previous campaign. Their composed display didn’t allow veteran ex-Juventus defender Martin Caceres to register a first-team slot and he was eventually released by the club at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.
Both Stephens and Yoshida, however, lack consistency, and struggle to make their presence known with physicality as well as aerial ability against outfits who love to press high up the pitch. The young Dutchman will fit straight into Pellegrino’s starting lineup and considering that the Saints successfully manage to wipe out their ‘selling club’ status, Hoedt will be an asset for the Hampshire outfit in the long run.