Speculation surrounding the future of Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to intensify.
The subject of the conjecture is not where on earth he actually plays, nor is it how long it will be before he overtakes Jack Wilshere in the matches missed through injury stakes, but where he will be playing his football next season.
Southampton have joined West Ham and Chelsea in showing an interest in the 22-year-old, who left St Mary’s for the Emirates for £15m in 2011.
The Mirror report Saints captain Jose Fonte, who played with ‘the Ox’ on the south coast when the latter was a youngster, is “trying to persuade” him to return to the club, having attempted similar in the January transfer window.
Currently injured, the England man enters the final two years of his Arsenal contract in the summer and the paper reports him to be conflicted.
He wants to play more regularly in order to further his career, which deepening his attachment to the north London outfit is unlikely to guarantee.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain reportedly loath to move to another capital-city side out of respect to Gunners fans that been supportive of him, Southampton may well be in the driving seat to secure his signature.
Yet, a season-long loan, rather than a permanent move, could well be the best option for all parties.
For the player, a temporary St Mary’s sojourn offers much-craved regular first-team football in a especially-supportive environment, plus the chance to return to a perennial Champions League qualifier with improved status if successful.
His parent club pocket a decent fee without permanently losing a starlet they’ve already made a substantial investment in and learn whether he sinks of swims in the more senior role they’ve so far shied away from giving him.
Southampton, meanwhile, can mitigate the financial risk of bringing in a promising but frustratingly injury-prone talent.