According to Sky Sports, Southampton are set to sign Uruguayan international centre-back Martin Caceres on a free transfer.
The 29-year-old still has to be granted a work permit and pass a medical before the deal can be complete.
Caceres was released by Italian giants Juventus in the summer, as the defender was plagued by injury during his three years in Turin.
The centre-back has not played in a year due to the aforementioned injuries and any club interested in signing him would need to take that into consideration.
However, as a free agent, the defender could prove a bargain option for the Saints to improve their backline. Claude Puel’s side have struggled at the back of late, so any reinforcements will be welcome.
Caceres has a very good pedigree
Caceres may be injury-prone, but he has a very good pedigree, having won titles at both Barcelona and Juventus. In the early part of his career, he was regarded as one of the most highly-rated young defenders in world football.
The fact that he was played for Sevilla, Barcelona and Juventus tells you his quality. His talent has never really been in question. It is his injury record that is concerning and his inability to stay injury-free that has prevented him from having a far more impressive career.
The fact that teams were queuing up to sign the defender also tells you a lot. Caceres is reported to have passed a medical at AC Milan but failed to agree personal terms, while the defender then failed a medical at Trabzonspor of Turkey.
Southampton’s Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Sunderland were both reportedly interested in signing Caceres. However, he now looks set to head to the south coast.
Desperately in need of defensive cover
January was a bad month for Southampton when it came to defenders. The Saints decided to sell captain Jose Fonte to West Ham, only for star centre-back Virgil van Dijk to pick up an ankle injury that will see him sidelined for two months.
That left Saints boss Claude Puel with a problem, as Japanese international Maya Yoshida is the clubs only recognised fit centre-back. Romanian international centre-back Florin Gardos has been perennially injured in recent seasons but is in the Saints squad.
He was on the bench for the 3-1 home defeat by West Ham, after Puel preferred youngster Jack Stephens at centre-back. The 28-year-old is probably short of match fitness having not played for a season and a half for the Saints first team.
The Saints must be questioned for allowing Fonte to leave, with such a lack of first cover in his position. He may have been out of favour and out of contract in the summer, but he was still needed.
The need for a new centre-back is evident in the fact that the Saints have conceded two or more goals in six of their last seven Premier League games.
The Saints have looked so well organised in the recent past in defence. However, at the moment they are a shambles at the back.
Avoiding a relegation battle
For the past few seasons under Dutch boss Ronald Koeman the Saints were in the top-half or challenging for the European spots. This season the men from the south coast have been highly inconsistent.
At the moment they occupy 13th place in the Premier League table. Their recent poor means that Puel’s side are only seven points clear of the relegation zone. The Saints odds of 33/1 to be relegated this season suggest that nobody believes that is a realistic possibility for the Saints.
Claude Puel’s side needs to turn things around and quickly, though. That could start with improved defensive displays. The signing of Martin Caceres is a gamble because of his fitness, but the Uruguayan may very well help the Saints to achieve that aim.
Arriving as a free agent his signing will not cost the Saints much by Premier League standards. The signing makes sense, Caceres needs a club and Southampton needs a centre-back. It could prove to be a great deal all round, especially with the south coast team’s recent defensive horror shows.
Will Martin Caceres prove to be a good signing for Southampton?
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