Transfer Focus: The Southampton target who could replace Van Dijk

Southampton are leading the way in the race to sign Sporting defender Ruben Semedo this summer who is thought to be playing his final game for the club this weekend, according to reports from O Jogo (via Sport Witness).

What’s the word?

The Saints have long been linked with a move for 23-year-old Semedo and have been in need of cover at the back since January, when they sold their captain and Portuguese international Jose Fonte to West Ham, weeks before their player of the season to that point, Virgil van Dijk, was hit with a season ending injury.

Semedo was firmly in the frame as a key player at Sporting in the early season, however, having fallen in and out of the staring XI of late it seems the club are willing to talk and that he will be on the move this summer.

Ligue 1 side Lille are also credited with interest in the Portuguese, however, it seems if it came to it the Premier League and St. Mary’s would be the obvious choice, joining up with compatriot and Euro 2016 winner Cedric Soares.

What does this say about Van Dijk?

The Dutch defender was on fire before a Jamie Vardy tackle put an end to his season just after the turn of the year.

The former Celtic man has been linked with the top clubs in the Premier League, with Chelsea supposedly the most likely destination, however, Claude Puel has been firm in his assertion that he does not want to lose the 25-year-old and that he will start next season in a Southampton shirt.

“He is our captain. He is important for us. He is a fantastic player. We will wait until the beginning of the season to see him again on the pitch. He has a long contract and I think the directors want to keep him”.

Claude Puel, May 2017 (via Sky Sports)

This deal, though, may suggest to many that the club are preparing for the departure of their main man, who was appointed first team captain after Fonte’s move.

However, the southerns have been left with just two first team centre-halves since Van Dijk’s injury in Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens. Whilst former Barcelona man Martin Caceres joined on a free in February he has made just one first team appearance, away at already relegated Middlesbrough.

With that in mind, while Semedo could well be seen as a replacement for Van Dijk, it could also just be that Puel and the board are looking for support ahead of the new campaign.