SAINTS could be set for a £20m double raid on Italian football to land Davide Astori and Philipe Coutinho.
Saints have been long linked to Astori, the Cagliari centre half who is also being courted by Liverpool, in a deal worth about £10m which the club are hoping to wrap up quickly.
Now sources in Italy are adamant that Saints are also pushing to seal a £10m deal for Inter Milan’s 20-yearold Brazilian Coutinho.
The attacking midfielder was once being hailed as one of Brazil’s hottest young talents, and has featured for the full national team.
However, following a €4m move from Vasco de Gama, Coutinho has struggled to hold down a place in the Inter first team.
The Italian giants are understood to be prepared to listen to January offers for players who are not regularly involved in the first team after discussions took place yesterday afternoon between the club’s owner and president Massimo Moratti and manager Andrea Stramaccioni.
Inter are under pressure to take action over their squad after a 3-0 defeat to Udinese at the weekend left them nine points off the pace in Serie A at the halfway point in the season. They are expected to move players on to create cash for others to come in and one surplus to requirements could be Coutinho.
Though Saints have plenty of creative talent already at the club the chance to land a young player with bags of ability is obviously proving tempting, especially with Adam Lallana missing with a knee injury.
Coutinho started his career at Vasco before the big money move to Inter in 2010.
He settled in fairly well making 13 Serie A appearances and playing six Champions League games in his first season at the club, which yielded one goal.
However, in 2011/12 he found it far harder to break into the side and in January 2012 was loaned to Spanish side Espanyol for the remainder of the season, scoring five goals in 16 appearances.
Coutinho returned to Inter in the summer but has found himself behind Antonio Cassano in the pecking order at the San Siro and has started just three Serie A games this season with a further seven appearances off the bench, bagging one goal.
He has been more active in the Europa League as Inter make changes to their regular first team, starting seven games this season and making two sub appearances, scoring twice.
Saints’ relegation rivals, and opponents this weekend, Aston Villa, are reportedly also interested in Coutinho and Liverpool have also stepped up their efforts to try and tempt Astori to Anfield.
The Reds are also interested in Coutinho, according to reports in the national press.
They are said to have offered £7m, but that is some way short of Cagliari’s valuation which leaves the door open for Saints to steal in with a higher offer and get a deal done quickly.
Saints’ need for a centre half has only intensified after Jose Fonte was stretchered off in the 5-1 defeat to Chelsea with the club currently assessing the extent of the injury.