Chelsea have completed the signing of Belgium midfielder Romeo Lavia from Southampton for an initial £53m.
The 19-year-old has signed a seven-year contract in a deal which could rise by a further £5m with add-ons.
Lavia made 34 appearances in all competitions last season but could not help prevent Saints’ relegation from the Premier League.
“I’m really happy join Chelsea and be a part of this exciting project,” said Lavia.
“It’s an amazing football club with a great history and I’m really excited to get started.
“I can’t wait to meet all my new team-mates and build a chemistry to achieve great things together.”
Liverpool were also keen on Lavia, but the Reds had a third bid – believed to have been for around £46m including add-ons – rejected by Southampton earlier this month.
Lavia becomes the second player this week to have opted for Chelsea over Jurgen Klopp’s side, following in the footsteps of Moises Caicedo, who joined the Blues from Brighton for a £100m fee which could rise to a British record £115m.
Having come through the youth system at Anderlecht, Lavia moved to Manchester City in 2020 after being spotted at a tournament in Belgium attended by Pep Guardiola. The youngster made just two senior appearances at City – in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup – as he struggled to break into the club’s first team and joined Saints in July 2022 for £10.5m.
City will collect 20% (£10.6m) of the initial £53m fee received by Southampton because of a sell-on clause.
Lavia made his debut for the Belgium national team earlier this year, coming on as a substitute with ten minutes to play in a friendly victory over Germany.
In a statement, Southampton paid tribute to Lavia for his “efforts and professionalism” during his one season with the club, wishing him “every success in what [they] are sure will be a fantastic career”.
Lavia thanked Southampton fans for their support in a goodbye message on Instagram.
“I’ve instantly felt the love for you all despite us not achieving our shared goals,” Lavia wrote.
“I’ll never forget the belief the club and Saints all around the world showed me and I hope I was able to repay the faith you put in me.
“I would especially like to thank all my teammates and staff members within the club. You have all played a massive part in making my integration into real professional football easier.
“For those reasons, this club will always remain close to my heart. Good luck this season and I look forward to seeing the club marching back to the Premier League where it belongs very soon!”