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Southampton to let Fraser Forster go this summer and target young replacement

Southampton intend to sit down with goalkeeper Fraser Forster at the end of the season to inform him he will not receive a new contract.

The Athletic is led to believe no recent discussions have taken place and the 34-year-old has not had any indication that his eight-year spell at the club is going to be extended.

Southampton agreed fresh terms with Forster’s rival for the No 1 shirt, Alex McCarthy, in 2021, tying him down to a three-year deal.

The pair went into last summer with only 12 months remaining on their respective contracts.

McCarthy has been sidelined since December with a hamstring injury, prompting the club to sign Willy Caballero as a free agent, but returned to the squad for Southampton’s trip to Brentford last weekend.

He was named on the bench for that game, and there is a good chance he could return to the starting XI against Liverpool on Tuesday — the club’s final home fixture of the season.

If that is to be the case, and McCarthy retains his spot for the Leicester City tie, then Forster would have already played his final Southampton match.

The former Celtic goalkeeper, who was a late addition to the England squad in March, has so far made 134 appearances Premier League for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side and has kept 43 clean sheets.

Forster currently holds the record for most clean sheets in a single Premier League season for Southampton (14), which he set during the 2014-15 campaign.

Supporters have been impressed with the goalkeeper’s form of late and many wanted to see him offered a new contract, but that was always going to be unlikely once McCarthy had agreed to extend his deal.

A string of fine performances between December and May, however, should be enough for Forster to earn a move to another Premier League side.

His expected departure means Southampton will target a new goalkeeper this summer, something The Athletic reported last year, and it is thought their search is already under way.

Manchester City’s Gavin Bazunu has admirers inside the club after impressing on loan at Portsmouth this season.

“Gavin will play in the Premier League (next season),” Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley recently claimed. “He will be a world-class goalkeeper.”

Bazunu, 20, has two years remaining on his contract, so a decision will have to be made as to whether they let him depart on another loan or depart permanently.

During his time at Fratton Park, the young goalkeeper kept an impressive 16 clean sheets in 44 league appearances and was named players’ player of the season.

Cowley intimated it would not be possible for Portsmouth to retain Bazunu’s services for another season.

A report in The Times suggested the Republic of Ireland international has informed Manchester City staff that he wants to play regular first-team football next season. Everton have also been linked with a move for the 20-year-old in recent days.

Bazunu is highly thought of by the Premier League holders and you would expect them to be reluctant to let him go without a buy-back clause.

As was the case with Tino Livramento, though, this may not be too much of an issue for Southampton. Bazunu, however, will just be one name on a list of targets.

In terms of a profile, it is thought the club are keen to sign a young goalkeeper as opposed to someone more senior.

This would provide McCarthy with competition from someone desperate to break into the first team, while also allowing goalkeeper coach Andrew Sparkes the opportunity to mould the shot-stopper to Southampton’s style.

Sparkes has coached Forster and McCarthy to play more of a sweeper-keeper role, which is how Hasenhuttl wants them to play.

Sam Johnstone, the out-of-contract West Brom and England goalkeeper, had attracted interest from Southampton last year, but West Ham appear to be leading the race for his signature. Tottenham Hotspur have also been touted as a possible destination for the 29-year-old.

Signing someone of Johnstone’s profile would also put the club in a position similar to the one they are in now: two first-team goalkeepers on high wages.

This is something they are keen to move away from, so acquiring an experienced rival to McCarthy does not make sense.

Their decision not to extend Forster’s contract should end any uncertainty about the goalkeeper situation and signal a new era at Southampton.

The 34-year-old played an important part in their success under Ronald Koeman’s guidance and returned after a year on loan at Celtic to fight for a spot in Hasenhuttl’s team.

Southampton had to make their mind up and now they need to ensure they came to the correct conclusion.

(Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

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