SAINTS are set to complete a signing that will be the club’s best statement of intent for years.

Already this summer Croatia defender Dejan Lovren has arrived for over £8m, and other expensive foreign international recruits are planned.

But whoever Saints sign in the next few months, none will be as important as that of a player who cost the club nothing.

England youth international Luke Shaw is expected to sign a five-year deal after he celebrates his 18th birthday on Friday.

In an instant, it will send a message to English football’s elite that Saints are no longer a club who can be raided for their best home-grown talent.

Left back Shaw was one of the stand-out performers of the club’s first season back in the Premier League last season.

He was a virtual ever present after making his first league start for Saints against Swansea at St Mary’s in early November.

The youngest player regularly appearing in top flight in 2012/13, Shaw is the latest starlet to roll off the club’s academy conveyor belt.

He follows Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent years.

But Shaw is different to those other three, and for one massive reason.

He is going to commit his long-term future to Saints rather than seek fame, fortune and trophies elsewhere.

Walcott’s light shone all too briefly at Saints, and he was sold to Arsenal at just 16 and with only half a season of first team football to his name at St Mary’s.

Bale was a regular for just the 2006/07 season before he was sold to Tottenham.

And, likewise, Oxlade-Chamberlain, only had one full season of first team football behind him at Saints when he followed Walcott to The Emirates.

It must have been galling for everyone with Saints’ interests at heart to see three youngsters quit the club so early in their careers rather than stay loyal.

But times are different now, for the better.

Saints weren’t in the Premier League when Walcott, Bale and Oxlade-Chamberlain left.

If they had been, it would have been intriguing to see whether they would have stayed if offered the chance to go.

Luke Shaw, thankfully, doesn’t have the same dilemma.

He is already and established Premier League performer.

He doesn’t have to leave Saints in order to play in the top league.

Saints have always said they aren’t a selling club, but recent history suggests otherwise.

Shaw’s willingness to sign a new deal suggests that has temporarily changed.

He will become the last member of last season’s regular first team to sign a long-term contract when he turns 18.

It is unusual for such a large number of players to be signed on for so long, but it shows the club’s faith in their top stars.

Let us be under no illusions here – Luke Shaw could leave Saints if he wanted.

The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all well aware of his ability.

Shaw is a boyhood Chelsea supporter – his family live close to the Blues’ Cobham training complex – and the west Londoners have long been touted as Shaw’s next club.

Like Wayne Bridge before him, it is possible that Shaw will be another Saints left back who one day leaves for Chelsea.

But Bridge gave Saints over five years of service before becoming one of the first players signed under the Roman Abramovich revolution a decade ago.

We can only hope Luke Shaw hangs around as long as Bridge did.

Saints chairman Nicola Cortese has previously spoken about his desire to see many home-grown Saints academy graduates in the club’s first team.

It is an admirable statement, but it needs Saints to keep hold of their best young talent in order to come true.

Luke Shaw’s decision to commit himself long-term to the club which has given him a top flight stage on which to perform gives credence to Cortese’s wish.

And what is more, it sends a rousing message to Saints’ Premier League rivals that here is a club which must be taken seriously now.