Southampton are hoping increased interest in Sheffield United target Charlie Austin will start a bidding war, reports the Southern Daily Echo.

Apparently both the Blades and Aston Villa have expressed an interest in signing Austin. They have both been told the Saints will listen to fair offers.

It’s believed a “fair offer” would be at least double the £4m paid for Austin in January 2016. However, with more clubs joining the chase for the striker the price could be driven upwards.

According to the Sun, Crystal Palace, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion are also keen on Austin.

Will Charlie Austin join Sheffield United?

(Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

The future of Austin at St Mary’s has been in doubt since the January transfer window. Ralph Hasenhuttl told the forward – who turns 30 this week – that he was free to leave.

There was interest from the Premier League at the time, but only loan deals. Southampton were only prepared to listen to permanent offers and there were some from the Championship.

Yet Austin did not want to drop into the second tier of English football. This should therefore give the Blades an advantage over Fulham and West Brom.

The appealing thing about Austin is he should be relatively cheap, though. The former QPR man is about to enter the final year of his current contract and is surplus to requirements under Hasenhuttl.

However, this wouldn’t be the case if a bidding war started and Chris Wilder will want to avoid such a scenario. Especially as, while Austin has a decent top flight scoring record with 34 goals in 106 games, he has also had injury issues.

The Blades are in the market for two new strikers this summer, as reported by the Sheffield Star, and this could represent a good option. But it does depend on if Villa and Palace want to enter a battle.

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