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Southampton seeking centre back: will Koeman turn to compatriot Vlaar?

Southampton (12/1 with Coral for a top four finish) are reportedly ready to return for Dutch defender and free agent Ron Vlaar after missing out on top centre back target Toby Alderweireld, with Ronald Koeman apparently keen to link up with his compatriot and former Feyenoord charge again.

Saints have been mooted to move for the unattached Netherlands international before, but nothing came of the south coast club’s interest while Vlaar was in the last year of his contract at Aston Villa.

Ex-Villans boss Paul Lambert criticised Koeman for his public admiration of his skipper at the time, stating: “I think he is disrespecting when talking about other team’s players when they are still their players. I wouldn’t mind if he picked up the phone, but you don’t go public on it.”

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was also tipped to try and lure the experienced rearguard marshal to Old Trafford last summer, after the 30-year-old played a crucial part in the coach’s Clockwork Orange World Cup side, but Vlaar stayed put at Villa Park.

It was believed the Villans were initially eager to retain the 30-year-old AZ Alkmaar academy graduate, but Vlaar appears to be keeping his options open, while new coach Tim Sherwood has already moved to reinforce his rearguard by drafting in replacement Micah Richards.

Vlaar, it seems, may have missed the boat, but Koeman’s rumoured revived interest could be a lifeline and a route into continental football for the tough tackling centre half, though the St Mary’s side stumbled in their qualification for the Europa League recently with a 5-4 loss to Leipzig.

Though the south coast club had attempted to shore up their backline taking up their option to buy loan star Alderweireld, who formed such a successful partnership with Jose Fonte last campaign, Koeman and co were pipped to the post by rivals Tottenham and former tactician Mauricio Pochettino.

It remains to be seen whether Southampton will take legal action against Atletico Madrid for selling Alderweireld to Spurs instead, but in the meantime the Saints (11/4 for a top six finish) must act fast to replace him. Having already bought versatile but young defenders Cedric Soares and Cuco Martina, an experienced addition to support Fonte in the heart of defence would give Koeman plenty of strength in depth.