Saints are preparing to move for Steaua Bucharest midfielder Nicolae Stanciu if they cannot agree a deal with Lille’s Sofiane Boufal.
Watford believe they have a good chance of signing Boufal after holding talks with the player earlier this week, but sources in France claim the player would prefer to move to St Mary’s.
The Morocco international is well aware of the club’s reputation for developing young talent and knows all about Saints boss Claude Puel, who is a legend at Lille.
But Saints have made little progress over a deal this week and are now lining up an alternative target in the final week of the transfer window.
Stanciu, 23, is set to play for Steaua in their Champions League play-off round second leg at Manchester City on Wednesday – after which he could be available for a fee under £10million.
Reports in Romania claim Saints have already tabled an £8million offer for the ex-Vaslui star amid rival interest from Chelsea, Espanyol, Lorient Anderlecht and Celta Vigo.
But that bid was rejected by Steaua – as was a £6million offer from Anderlecht.