By Liam Twomey
Southampton starlet Matt Targett is being tracked by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, Goal.com understands.
The 17-year-old left-back is regarded as one of the jewels of the Saints academy and the long-term successor to Luke Shaw, whose own future is the subject of intense speculation.
Shaw has been consistently impressive in the Premier League this season, and boss Nigel Adkins felt compelled to warn off potential suitors before he again caught the eye in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with the Gunners.
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While only two months younger than Shaw, Targett would be available at a considerably lower price, due to his lesser profile and the fact he has yet to sign professional terms with the Saints.
Under the new rules laid down by the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), players under the age of 18 on youth contracts can be transferred for a fixed fee determined by the player’s length of service in the selling club’s academy.
Consequently, despite Targett having been with the Saints – his boyhood club – since the age of eight, any transfer fee would be only a fraction of the £9 million received for fellow youth graduate Theo Walcott, or the £12m Arsenal paid for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in August 2011.
Southampton's academy enjoys Category One status – the highest possible rating – under the new system, but this has no bearing on the fees they are entitled to receive for their youth products.
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