Sofiane Boufal looks set for Southampton as Lille boss admits defeat
Lille forward Sofiane Boufal is edging closer to joining Southampton, but the Premier League club's manager Claude Puel has refused to discuss the potential deal.
Boufal's "departure is imminent" according to Lille manager Frederic Antonetti, but Southampton are staying tight-lipped on the matter.
Saints are understood to be nearing completion on the deal to bring 22-year-old Boufal to St Mary's, but boss Puel is in no rush to discuss the situation.
"It's not possible to speak on a player if he hasn't signed for Southampton," said Puel.
"We'll see in the next day if this is possible or not, but at the moment it's difficult to make a comment or to communicate on this player."
Lille boss Antonetti was far more forthcoming on Morocco forward Boufal's situation when talking to the press on Thursday, admitting the lively former Angers star is on his way out of the Ligue 1 club.
"His departure is imminent," said Antonetti, who also hinted Southampton will be signing a player who can turn matches on his own.
"I know there are negotiations for Sofiane Boufal.
"He is the only player of that type I have had in my career. Boufal is capable of deciding a match by himself."
Southampton host Sunderland on Saturday itching for their first Premier League win of the new campaign after drawing with Watford and losing at Manchester United.
New boss Puel insisted Portugal defender Jose Fonte will remain at Southampton despite interest from United, while also accepting that defender Cuco Martina's situation at the club remains uncertain following rumoured interest from Everton.
Frenchman Puel also revealed Jay Rodriguez could be sent on loan to build confidence and match sharpness following his near two-year battle with knee ligament troubles.
"His work with Southampton is not finished," said Puel of Fonte.
"There are good opportunities in Europe and the Premier League and for me it's very important to keep Jose.
"He's okay with this. He had a good discussion with the director, the chairman and now it's okay. The fans can be happy because Jose's staying.
"For Jay, we will see in the next days.
"I think he's a very good player, I like him, I like his play, his game.
"Just the question with Jay is to know whether it would be better for him to play regularly in a team, or as substitute for example with us - s ometimes of course to play, but after a two-year injury it's difficult to come back.
"I see good technique, it's important now he comes back with good confidence and physical level.
"Just the thought with Jay is to see if it's interesting to stay with us or to perhaps loan to another club. But I like this player and his profile."
On Martina's potential move, Puel added: "We will see in the next days (whether there is) a move or not for some players.
"Perhaps new players for Southampton and other players can play at another team.
"We will see this for Cuco, we don't know the final and last decision for the club with Cuco."