Nigel Adkins has again refused to comment on Saints’ January transfer plans, despite the club continuing to be linked with a string of high-profile stars.

Cagliari defender Davide Astori has been the most heavily rumoured target, with St Mary’s chief Nicola Cortese attempting to work out a deal for the Italian centre half.

However, AC Milan are said to be keen on signing the 26-year-old too, although his valuation of about £12m has been proving hard for anyone to meet.

It has also been reported that Saints have made an approach to Bologna, the club they signed Gastón Ramírez from last summer, for Frederik Sørensen.

The Serie A side do not wish to sell the Danish centre back, 20, and any potential deal is further complicated by the player being co-owned by Juventus.

Saints’ desire for a new centre half is heightened by the injury to José Fonte, who was stretchered off in last week’s FA Cup tie with Chelsea and is likely to be sidelined for a number of weeks.

Adkins was keeping quiet when it came to any potential deals, however.

“It is fair to say it is better to keep all your cards as close to your chest as possible,” he said, when asked about Astori.

“I am not saying there is interest but, hypothetically, if people are having conversations it is better to keep all of those conversations quiet.

“We have done that notoriously well at Southampton.

“We don’t want things to be done publicly in the media and we believe that is the best way to do it.”