OXFORD United have fought off a dozen clubs to sign highly-rated centre back Rob Atkinson.

The former Fulham trainee has signed a contract until summer 2023 after the U’s agreed an undisclosed fee with Eastleigh.

Atkinson came close to joining Peterborough United this month, but when that move ran into problems United pounced.

He is the fourth deal to be clinched by United in just over 24 hours, following deals for Marcus Browne, Liam Kelly and Nathan Holland.

Seen as one for the future, it is expected the 21-year-old will be loaned back out to the National League side until the summer.

U’s boss Karl Robinson said: “We know there were ten League One clubs and two Championship clubs who put a bid in for him.

“We matched the bid literally 48 hours ago.

“Tiger (chairman Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth) and the board were very quick on that.”

He added: “I’ve never seen a dribbling centre back like him.

“When people start seeing young Rob’s clips people will go ‘that’s an Oxford United centre back’.

“We’re getting agents calling us saying 'there’s not many clubs this player can play for, but you’re one of them'.

“All the teams linked with him are footballing ones and we fall into that bracket now, which is pleasing for me.”

Atkinson, who started out at Basingstoke Town, only joined Eastleigh from Fulham last summer and was part of a side who beat a young U’s line-up 3-0 in pre-season.

Also able to play at left back, the defender’s style dovetails with what Robinson wants.

He said: “I wouldn’t say I’m an orthodox centre back.

“I can do the ugly side, head the ball but I like running out with the ball. I will do that plenty at this club, that’s what you can expect.

“I love dribbling. That’s where I get my enjoyment from the game.

“If I wasn’t allowed to do that I wouldn’t enjoy football anywhere near as much.”

He added: “I’m just a happy man at the moment.

“I always knew I could do it, I just needed to play men’s football.”