Report: Saints lead race for signature of Joao Mario

The Portuguese midfielder was on loan at West Ham United last season from Inter Milan.

Premier League outfit Southampton are reportedly most likely to acquire the services of midfielder Joao Mario, with the club leading a race which includes the club's rivals AFC Bournemouth and fellow top-flight side Tottenham Hotspur.

The Saints are yet to submit an offer for the Portuguese international, who was amongst the team which lost to Uruguay in the World Cup, but boss Mark Hughes is confident he will be able to get the 25 year-old to agree terms at St. Mary's.

Southampton are currently enjoying their pre-season tour of China but have already penned two new signings this summer; Stuart Armstrong made the switch from Celtic, as well as talented winger Mohamed Elyounoussi of FC Basel.

A spectacular creator to surprise the fans

Mario, currently tied down to Serie A giants Inter Milan, endured a less than inspiring loan in the second half of last season at West Ham United - and he even featured in the Hammers' 3-0 triumph over the Saints back in March.

However, despite netting the opener in that game, Mario failed to impress the supporters having made as little as thirteen appearances during his time at the London Stadium and hit the back of the net just twice in what was a depressing campaign for West Ham.

Albeit the player's struggled to surpass expectations, Inter Milan are hoping to break ties with their man and that may help Southampton capture his signature. 

Following the unwanted but inevitable exit of Dusan Tadic last month, Hughes will be eager to replace the creative talisman with someone of a similar build and playstyle, which is precisely what Mario offers to the table on the south coast. 

Whilst the 2016 European Championship winner bagged himself a near £40 million switch to Italy, it was his rather inspiring form for Sporting Lisbon in his homeland where he began to make a name for himself. Joao Mario managed to tally fourteen goals and eighteen further assists during his time in the Portuguese capital for the first-team.

Hughes close to bolstering defensive options

Southampton may be looking to add their third midfield option this summer window already, but manager Hughes is also aiming to add numbers and quality to his defensive back line in the hope to improve on the club's dismal term last time out.

Defender Jannik Vestergaard of Borussia Monchengladbach is on the radar for the Saints but the two teams are yet to agree a transfer fee; the centre-half was an unused substitute in Denmark's World Cup campaign.

Reports are spreading like wild fire that January arrival Guido Carrillo is heading for the exit door at St. Mary's with the Argentinian striker now fourth in the pecking order for attackers with Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long ahead of him.