With the Moroccan having made a name for himself at the 2022 World Cup, which likely spurred the Whites into action, they have now been labelled “outsiders” by journalist Ryan Taylor, with Napoli thought to be the frontrunners for his signature.
Seemingly set to miss out on this target, Victor Orta is wasting no time in moving on to the next option, which happens to be the impressive Morten Hjulmand.
Boasting several suitors from the Premier League, the Danish midfielder is a reported target of the Yorkshire outfit, who could see him as a direct replacement for Kalvin Phillips at just €11m (£10m); which is what Southampton are preparing to pay.
The academy graduate left Elland Road in the summer for Manchester City but has struggled to make an impact at the Etihad.
However, he was one of ex-manager Marcelo Bielsa’s most integral players during his time at the club and starred in both their promotion back to the Premier League and their first campaign back in it too.
He was synonymous with tough-tackling displays but boasted the quality to launch counterattacks, and in the latter of the aforementioned seasons, he would record 2.6 tackles, 1.6 interceptions and 1.2 key passes per 90 on his way to a 7.21 average rating. via Sofascore.
Whilst these are lofty ambitions for his would-be successor to attain, his time in Serie A has shown glimpses that suggest it would be wholly possible.
This season for Lecce, the 23-year-old is enjoying a fine season where he has been handed a 6.91 average rating.
His three assists in 16 games suggest an air of creativity about his play, but that is far from his focal point. He is a much bigger fan of a crunching tackle, of which he completes 2.6 per game alongside 2.1 interceptions, via Sofascore.
This has clearly seen him earn a reputation, with journalist Henrik Fallesen lauding his “tough” nature.
Able to come in and instantly do a job, this solidity could be imperative in diminishing the 33 goals they have conceded in just 18 league games.
With Ounahi looking out of the picture, his arrival could see them return to the form that they found in Phillips’ standout year, should Hjulmand hit his stride in a similar fashion.