Wolves’ pursuit of Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina appears to be edging closer.
Several reports in France claim the clubs have agreed a £1m loan fee for the season with a view to a permanent deal, though confirmation is still awaited. The potential sticking point is a clause Wolves have apparently insisted on as part of the permanent deal, namely that the 25-year-old has to play 30 games this season before a reported £19m fee has to be paid.
Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo is pushing for the signing of a midfielder before Thursday’s 5pm deadline. But Wolves, who play their next Europa League tie, away to Armenian side FC Pyunik that night, will have to move quickly if they are to land Lemina.
Wolves have been linked with the former Marseille and Juventus man for a while. Southampton are willing to let him leave St Mary’s, for a similar fee to the £15.4m they paid Juve for him two years ago. Wolves have enjoyed huge success with the ‘try before you buy’ deal before, which brought Willy Boly, Diogo Jota, Jonny Castro Otto, Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker to the club.
Lemina fits the versatile criteria Nuno likes for his small squad – a right-footed central midfielder who can also operate as a wing back, winger or even centre back, where he played as part of a three-man defence under Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille in 2014-15. He can win the ball back but is also neat and tidy in possession and a good passer.
Lemina’s passing success rate was 87.8 per cent in his first season on the south coast. This dropped to 86 per cent last term but was still higher than Ruben Neves and Dendoncker, who posted returns of 81.2 per cent and 79.4 per cent.
Having won back-to-back league and cup doubles with Juventus, Lemina has proved himself a winner, and also has two seasons of Premier League football under his belt, with 49 appearances for the Saints in all competitions. He switched to Gabon – the country of his birth – in 2015 after winning the Under-20 World Cup with France two years earlier, winning six caps at that level.