By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Fulham are ready to make a sensational swoop for Southampton wonderkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as his proposed £10 million switch to Arsenal is on the verge of breaking down, Goal.com UK can reveal.
The Gunners have agreed a £5m cash payment up front for the 17-year-old plus another £5m of add-ons but the deal has suffered a hitch because of Arsenal’s refusal to allow him to go back on loan to St Mary’s Stadium for the rest of the season.
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Southampton believe Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been in brilliant form for the League One club, can give them the edge in their push for promotion to the Championship and the player is concerned that an immediate switch could damage his ambitions for regular first-team football.
Now Fulham are ready to step up their interest in the most coveted teenager in English football. They are willing to meet Southampton’s demands for an initial £5m fee and manager Mark Hughes believes he can offer the attacking midfielder more opportunities than he will get at the elite Premier League clubs.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have all registered an interest in the son of former England international Mark Chamberlain, who Southampton insiders rate as a better prospect than Theo Walcott at the same age.
But it is understood that the teenager, who is a Liverpool supporter, has rejected the Merseysiders’ advances because of uncertainty about the future managerial set-up at the club.
“The deal between Arsenal and Southampton has suffered a hiccup because Arsenal have said ‘no’ to him going back on loan,” an insider told Goal.com UK. “He wants to see the season out at his club while Southampton want to keep him to help them get promotion. They are not desperate to sell him and would rather hold on to him until the summer when his fee could go up to £7.5m plus £7.5m of add-ons.
“Chelsea and Fulham are in the chase, while Manchester City are keen but he is not going to go there. He wants to play regularly, which is why Fulham is increasingly attractive.”
It is believed that Fulham owner and chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed is willing to sanction a £5m initial fee for Oxlade-Chamberlain as he has been convinced that the player, who does not turn 18 until August, can go straight in to the squad and will have considerable re-sale value.
Oxlade-Chamberlain became the second youngest debutant - behind Walcott - in the League One club’s history last March when he made his first Southampton appearance aged 16 years and 199 days. He has established himself as a first-team regular this season, starting 18 of his 27 games and scoring seven goals.
He is being used by Southampton on the flanks but the coaching staff believe his vision, technique, directness and eye for goal mean he will eventually mature in to a playmaker.