SAINTS have been put up for sale at an asking price of around £250 million, according to reports.

Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, who owns a controlling stake in the Premier League side, has invited a broker to source a buyer for the club, according to the Sunday Times.

It comes just three years after he bought his 80 per cent stake in the club for £210m, taking over from the previous owner Katharina Liebherr.

But the Echo understands Saints aren’t actively marketing themselves as up for sale but, as with every football club, are always open to investment.

As previously reported in the Echo, Gao said his approach is that he wants Saints to be self-sustaining which, as it stands, means he won’t be investing any more of his own money into the club.

In a rare interview with the Financial Times, Gao said: “I am not treating Southampton as a pig to be fattened and sold.

“I am treating it as a child. But my children must believe they cannot depend on the boss.

“I have said to Southampton: ‘I am now your father. But I am putting you on the right track: you need to feed yourself.’”

It’s not the first time that there have been reports suggesting Saints are up for sale and it’s not unusual for third parties to claim they have a mandate to sell players or clubs when that isn't always the case.

Similar reports appeared just under 12 months ago, shortly after Gao sold his 30 per cent stake in Lander Sports Development for approximately £148.5m.

However, nothing is yet to materialise in terms of a new owner buying Gao’s majority off him and, at the time of his Lander Sports Development sale, Saints remained confident in the Chinese businessman’s commitment to them.

Gao’s daughter, Nelly, is based in the UK and is effectively his eyes and ears on the ground, although she isn’t based at Staplewood or St Mary’s.

The day-to-day running of the club is left to chief executive Martin Semmens and Toby Steele, Saints’ managing director.