Fulham target Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse

Fulham target Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse

Fulham are serious contenders in the race for Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse.

The Cottagers are targeting the midfielder, who is interested in a move to Craven Cottage, the PA news agency understands.

Southampton are likely to ask for close to £30million for their captain – who has three years left on his contract – after relegation from the Premier League last season.

West Ham want Fulham’s Joao Palhinha to replace Declan Rice, which would then see the Cottagers line up Ward-Prowse.

Arsenal have had two bids rejected for Hammers skipper Rice this week, although champions Manchester City are reportedly preparing their own offer.

The Hammers are also interested in England international Ward-Prowse but he would prefer a switch to west London.

The 28-year-old sees Marco Silva’s style as the best fit for him as he looks for a route back to the top flight.

A move to Fulham would also see him link up with former Saints team-mate Harrison Reed, with the pair having come through the academy at St Mary’s.

Brentford, given their threat from set pieces, also held an interest in Ward-Prowse but they were quickly rebuffed by the Saints star.

He will leave the club this summer having been unable to keep Southampton in the Premier League after they finished bottom.

They had three managers as Nathan Jones replaced Ralph Hasenhuttl in November – but lasted just 14 games before being sacked – and Ruben Selles was unable to save the Saints.

Southampton appointed Russell Martin on a three-year deal from Swansea on Wednesday, with the Swans looking to bring Michael Duff in from Barnsley.

Martin will have to mount a promotion charge in the Championship without Ward-Prowse, who has made 409 appearances and scored 55 goals for the Saints and is one goal short of David Beckham’s Premier League free-kick record of 18.

Saints could also lose Romeo Lavia, with the midfielder wanted by Liverpool and Arsenal.