NEW Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino is expected to return to Espanyol as he seeks to make an impact at St Mary’s.
The Argentine was in charge of the La Liga Club for three and a half years prior to his sacking last November.
And Spanish sources have told the Daily Echo that Pochettino could turn his interest to several of his former players.
Among them is attacking midfielder Joan Verdu, who has been Espanyol’s best player this season by some distance, and on loan striker Samuel Longo. And Pochettino is also being linked back in Spain with his former Espanyol loanee midfielder Phillipe Coutinho.
The Brazilian youngster, 20, was previously linked with Saints earlier this month when Nigel Adkins was still in charge.
Coutinho – said to be on the verge of joining Liverpool from Milan – played the second half of last season on loan to Espanyol.
Despite being a selling club, Espanyol are expected to be very keen to hang onto prize asset Verdu, whose contract expires this summer.
A product of Barcelona’s youth system, the 29-year-old was signed by Pochettino from La Coruna in the summer of 2009.
Verdu has scored six goals in 20 appearances this season, compared to scoring only five goals in each of his previous two campaigns under Pochettino.
The new Saints manager also sanctioned the loan signing of Longo from Inter Milan last summer.
But with Espanyol’s main striker Sergio García back following a lengthy injury layoffs, Longo has not featured too much recently to Inter’s annoyance.
Inter are believed to be keen on recalling the Italian Under 21 international – but only with a view to finding a new club.
Boca Juniors forward Nicolas Blandi is also believed to be close to joining Espanyol, pushing Longo further down the pecking order.
Sources have also told the Echo that Pochettino could be interested in his former Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni.
He is rated as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Spanish league and capped 70 times by Cameroon.
Kameni left under a cloud last January, citing a lack of ambition from the club.
However, the excellent form of Wily Caballero means he's been forced to play back-up at Málaga.
Pochettino has also been linked to Anderlecht’s versatile Argentine defensive midfielder Lucas Biglia.
Arsenal are believed to have been monitoring the 26-year-old, who is rated in the £8m category.