SAINTS have been linked with an Italian defender ahead of the opening of the January transfer window.

They are reported to have bid £8m for Calgiari centre half Davide Astori in a bid to shore up one of the Premier League’s most leaky defences.

Though Saints have recently tightened up at the back – prior to Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Stoke they had only let in six goals in eight games – they still have the second-worst record in the top flight.

Nigel Adkins only has three senior centre halves to choose from, and all of them played at Stoke.

Jose Fonte partnered the recalled Jos Hooiveld at the Britannia Stadium, with Maya Yoshida moved out to right back in place of Nathaniel Clyne as Adkins went for extra height to combat Stoke’s aerial assault.

Adkins currently has two centre halves out on loan - Danny Seaborne to Charlton Athletic and Aaron Martin to Crystal Palace.

Martin, who is on a season long loan at Selhurst Park, has not played for the Eagles since August.

Saints have also been linked again with Birmingham keeper Jack Butland, after having a £6m bid turned down last summer.