Celta Vigo were linked to Mario Lemina on Tuesday but Saints may have to offload the midfielder elsewhere after the La Liga club re-signed Papa Cheikh Diop. Lemina is desperate to leave St Mary’s and has not been training with the first-team squad after being told he’s not in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s plans at all.
Southampton are looking to get him off their books and it is in the player’s interests to find a new club, too, unless he is happy collecting a wage for turning up to train on his own or with the academy players.
He was linked to Manchester United and Arsenal back in July when it became clear Hasenhuttl wanted him out, but it was Wolverhampton Wanderers who came the closet to signing Lemina a couple of days before last week’s transfer deadline.
However, Foot Mercato claimed talks over a loan deal with a mandatory purchase option broke down when the two clubs couldn’t agree terms.
He can still move to La Liga and Celta were rumoured to be interested in the Gabon international in order to add some more physicality to their midfield.
Celta sporting director Felipe Minambres identified Lemina as a target, according to Spanish newspaper AS.
Saints appear to have a strong relationship with the Galician club, having sent both centre-back Wesley Hoedt and winger Sofiane Boufal on loan to the Balaidos last season.
But both men flattered to deceive in Vigo and it may have put Minambres off making a bigger play for another Saints reject.
Instead, they have brought Diop, 22, back from a two-year spell in France with Lyon.
The Senegal international came through the youth ranks at the Balaidos and will take no time to settle back in among his old surroundings after only 13 Ligue 1 appearances for Lyon.
He was spotted in the stands at Balaidos last Saturday for Celta’s pre-season defeat to Lazio, sitting alongside the club’s injured players and those not selected for that game.
Although coach Fran Escriba played down any interest in seeing Diop return, club officials later confirmed they were in negotiations.