Southampton Join Hunt For European Trophy Winner

Southampton have joined the race to sign 23-year-old West Ham United full-back Ben Johnson, as per Football Insider.


Johnson, who is also a target for Leeds United, was a Conference League winner with the Hammers last season, but he’s struggled to make a significant impact in their first team this time out.


Rated at €8 million (£6.8 million), the defender has represented England ten times at Under 21 level but has turned out just twice in the Premier League this season.


That’s now alerted Southampton, relegated from the top flight last time out.


Russell Martin’s side are locked in a battle to bounce back at the first opportunity, three points behind Ipswich Town in second but four clear of Leeds in fourth.


It’s believed they see Johnson as the ideal player to help them kick on in the second half of the season.


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They’re not alone, and the hunt for his signature promises to be interesting. Sheffield United are credited with an interest, offering Premier League football in the short term, but likely a return to the Championship in May.


Scottish giants Rangers are also in the hunt – they could offer European football now, having advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League, which may appeal to Johnson.


Johnson’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and as he’ll be 24 when it does, there will be no fee due to West Ham.


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That means any potential suitors could pick him up for free in the summer or pay a modest fee now to get ahead of the competition.


The Saints have yet to make a major move in the transfer market this winter, with Joe O’Brien-Whitmarsh the only arrival for an undisclosed fee from Irish side Cork City.


Writer’s View

Ben Johnson is going to be hot property. At 23, he is an asset likely to grow in value, and he can operate on either flank, making him flexible within a team’s squad.


He’s also going to be available for what many might consider a cut-price deal.


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If he waits until the summer, it could mean a bigger payday for him, but if he moves now, it rekindles his season.


Of those chasing his signature, Southampton and Rangers surely stand out.


The Saints are best placed to offer Premier League football next season, although that isn’t set in stone, of course, whereas Rangers can put him in the European spotlight immediately.


He’s likely to be a regular for Rangers, but moving to Scotland, he would forgo the big matches that English football and possibly the Premier League brings.

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