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Southampton’s imminent £10 million signing has gone from stopping Cristiano Ronaldo to claiming to be “world class.”

Southampton is close to completing the £10 million acquisition of Manchester City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.

Last season, the 20-year-old spent time on loan at Saints’ bitter rivals Portsmouth, earning 10 senior caps for the Republic of Ireland. Despite Pompey’s failure to reach the play-offs, Bazunu made 44 League One appearances for the south coast club last season, keeping 16 clean sheets in a very successful loan stay.

At barely 20 years old, the Irishman has already racked up double digits in senior international appearances and has displayed maturity much beyond his age group in goal.
But what do we know about the man who might be Southampton’s first significant summer acquisition, and what can Saints supporters expect from the Manchester City goalkeeper?

Danny Cowley’s admission that he is “world class”
Following Bazunu’s loan time at Fratton Park, Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley did not hold back in lavishing praise on the goalie, conceding that keeping him would be hard for the third-tier club.

The 43-year-old said, “In fact, the 43-year-old went on to say: “Gavin [Bazunu] will be a Premier League player. Let me tell you right now: he is a world-class athlete. He’ll be a top-notch goalie.”

His forecast appears to be correct, albeit the Portsmouth manager may not have anticipated Bazunu to wind up in Southampton on the south coast.
In the midst of international heroics, denying Ronaldo from the penalty spot
Bazunu, who was just 19 years old at the time, had the opportunity to play against Cristiano Ronaldo in a World Cup Qualifier against Portugal in September, which may have been a dream come true for many young football fans.

However, the goalie went one step further and saved a penalty kick from the great Portuguese striker. As a teenager, it’s not bad for a CV.

Unfortunately for Stephen Kenny’s team, they lost late in the game, with Ronaldo scoring a brace in a 2-1 defeat for Ireland.

Bazunu, who is 20 years old, has 10 caps for his country and is presently the Republic of Ireland’s number one goalkeeper.

In the transaction, there might be a buy-back clause.
Despite appearing to be on his way out permanently, Bazunu is still highly regarded by Manchester City, with talkSPORT reporting that the Citizens gave the Irishman a significant wage hike to keep him in the city.

With Ederson still securely in the number one position at the Etihad, Pep Guardiola’s prospects of getting regular first-team playing time were severely limited, and the Irishman chose to move elsewhere to become a Premier League number one.

The city is reportedly expected to demand that a large buy-back clause be included in the deal, demonstrating how highly the Premier League winners regard the 20-year-old.

This is something Southampton arranged last summer when they signed Tino Livramento from Chelsea, and it might prove to be a win-win situation for all parties.

Before Portsmouth, what was there?
The 2021/22 season was without a doubt Bazunu’s greatest to date in his brief career, but it wasn’t the first time the goalie had played regular League One football.

In the 2020/21 season, the Irishman made 29 appearances in goal for Rochdale in the third tier, but for a considerably inferior side, that was relegated to League Two.

Prior to joining Manchester City, the goalkeeper made his debut with Shamrock Rovers at the age of 16, having progressed through their development system, where he maintained four straight Premier Division clean sheets.

Bazunu made two more appearances before joining Manchester City in February 2019 with a total of 27 games across all age categories.

Will he be Southampton’s new first-choice goalkeeper?
Unless he has a fantastic pre-season that genuinely impresses Ralph Hasenhuttl, Bazunu is expected to compete with Alex McCarthy in the 2022/23 season, although initially as his understudy.

The Saints, however, see the 20-year-old as a long-term option in goal for a fee of £10 million, which could rise with add-ons, and the Irishman could quickly become the Austrian manager’s first choice.

Despite Kyle Walker-Peters’ outstanding form the previous season, Bazunu, like Livramento, might be featured sooner rather than later, with the former Chelsea teenager beginning on the opening day of the 2021/22 season against Everton at Goodison Park.

For several seasons, the goalkeeping position has been a serious concern. It’s a huge ask to call on a teenager with no top-flight experience, but there’s hope that once he’s settled in, the Irishman can be precisely what Southampton needs in goal.

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