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Billy Sharp will be handed a free transfer by Saints.

The 28-year-old striker, who joined for £1.8m in January 2012 but has had a string of loan spells, will be allowed to leave St Mary’s for nothing if he receives a suitable offer this summer.

Sharp has returned to Saints for pre-season training in good shape and good spirits, and has impressed new manager Ronald Koeman. However, the Dutchman doesn’t feel that Sharp is going to figure in his plans for the new Premier League season.

As a recognition of his commitment to the club and his effort, Saints are prepared to waive any potential transfer fee to allow Sharp the chance to move on and further his career elsewhere if he gets an offer he wishes to pursue.

Sharp was signed by Nigel Adkins at the very end of the transfer window in January 2012, the pair having previously worked together at Scunthorpe.

The striker, who started his career at Sheffield United, was recruited to provide extra firepower as Saints tried to press home their advantage and secure promotion from the Championship.

He delivered exactly that as Sharp plundered nine goals in just 15 appearances to help Saints climb back into the Premier League.

However, his joy was short lived as promotion proved to be the death knell for his chances at Saints.Since then Sharp has been overlooked by successive managers, figuring just twice for Saints in the top flight.

He spent the 2012/13 season on loan at Nottingham Forest before last season splitting his time between Reading and Doncaster.

It is understood that a number of clubs have already enquired about Sharp’s availability and the news that he could leave on a free is sure to trigger a rush to secure his services before the transfer window closes.

Sharp’s career stats show a striker who has scored 146 goals in 341 appearances while even at Saints, where chances have been limited, he has notched ten goals in 18 appearances.

Even with Sharp out of the reckoning, and Rickie Lambert also sold this summer, Koeman has a few striking options at his disposal.

Graziano Pelle is likely to start the season leading the line with Sam Gallagher and Emmanuel Mayuka also in the squad.

Last season’s top scorer, Jay Rodriguez, could also be considered for the role when he returns from injury.