Fulham are planning an audacious £8m move for Charlie Austin – but will have to outmanoeuvre at least two Premier League clubs to land the Southampton striker.

The Sun claims that Austin has been told he is free to leave St. Mary’s by Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, who doesn’t see the former QPR forward as fitting in his style of play, as long as suitors match the south coast club’s asking price. The tabloid reports that newly promoted Aston Villa and Crystal Palace are keen to offer the 29 year-old an opportunity to remain in the Premier League.

Austin, who has scored 20 goals in 76 appearances during three and half years with the Saints, turned down potential loan moves to the Championship in January, preferring to try and regain a starting spot under Hasenhuttl. Fulham will be hoping that he is open to dropping down a division to reignite his career, but they will face stiff competition from West Brom for his signature. Southampton hope to spark a bidding war for the striker’s services as they seek to fund a summer spending spree of their own.

Fulham are known to be considering strengthening their striking options as Scott Parker prepares for his first full season in charge at Craven Cottage. The club are keen to hold onto Aleksandar Mitrovic despite their relegation from the Premier League and are mulling over the prospect of reintroducing Aboubakar Kamara, who spent the second half of last season on loan in Turkey after well publicised disciplinary problems, to the first-team squad. Austin, who won promotion via the play-offs with QPR in 2014, would be an ambitious acquisition, especially as his preference would probably be to remain in the top division.