Pep Guardiola has hinted Manchester City could trigger their buy-back clause for Romeo Lavia following the young Belgian's impressive debut Premier League season with Southampton. The 19-year-old talent moved to St Mary's last summer for £10.5million in a deal that could yet rise to £14m with add-ons.
Lavia was rated highly by City but Guardiola has confessed he simply couldn't offer the player the game time he desires to continue his development.
And now with Southampton cemented to the foot of the Premier League table, Guardiola has indicated that the champions could seek to capitalise on the buy-back option they inserted into the deal.
"I'm really impressed with what Romeo [Lavia] has done [at Southampton], and is doing. We have an incredible opinion of him," Guardiola said ahead of the trip to Southampton.
"We thought to keep him, but thought we couldn't give him enough minutes like he has at Southampton."
Incredibly, Chelsea launched a mega-money £50m bid to sign Lavia on transfer deadline day last summer just weeks after he completed his move to the South Coast.
Southampton rejected the approach, however and Lavia has since been a staple in their side this season under Ralph Hasenhuttl, Nathan Jones and Ruben Selles.
He has scored just one goal for the Saints and coincidentally, that came against Chelsea in the 2-1 win over the Blues just before the deadline-day proposal.
Arsenal and Liverpool have also been linked with moves for the young maestro in recent weeks as it appears he could be up for grabs this summer.
Although he is evidently held in high regard by Selles, the Saints caretaker boss has been keen to keep the player's feet firmly on the ground.
“We are talking about a young player who is in the Premier League for the first time. It has been a very hard season for all of us,” the Spaniard recently said.
“I think Romeo has all the qualities to be a great player but I don’t think he’s there yet. This is why he didn’t impress me.
“To make the next step, he needs to show more domination in the games, more domination in possession and more leadership on the pitch if he wants to become the thing everyone is saying he is.”
When asked to clarify his comments, Selles then added: “He needs to give more for me, more for the team and needs to show more for himself. It is nothing that it is about personally, and it is something the competition is giving him.
“He is growing through the competition, both from the internal competition and in the Premier League. We need to be careful when we talk about kids starting in the Premier League.
“I have no doubt he will be there but he needs to make more steps and everyone around him needs to be calmed down. When you try to make four steps forward, usually you don’t make the first one.
“It is one step at a time, you stay here with us, you perform, you make this team win football matches, you lead on the pitch and in the dressing room and then when the season is finished and everybody is in the Premier League, we can think about something else."