Everton slipped up in the previous transfer window by allowing Theo Walcott to join Southampton on loan until the end of the season.
The 31-year-old returned to his boyhood side late in the summer market after the Toffees failed to secure a permanent deal, having shopped Walcott around as part of a vast clear out at Goodison Park to recoup some cash from their spending spree.
Walcott had only moved to Merseyside two-and-a-half years prior in a deal worth in excess of £20m, but had been deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti as he entered the final year of his £100,000-per-week contract.
Everton’s inability to find suitors willing to purchase the £9m-rated winger ultimately opened the door for his homecoming at St. Mary’s, where Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are only on the hook for half of Walcott’s wages.
Trevor Sinclair has recently revealed he was surprised by Everton’s decision to allow Walcott to join Southampton until the end of the season, at which point he will be a free agent, as the former Arsenal forward had become a real attacking threat again.
“I think they [Southampton] have strengthened as well bringing in Theo,” Sinclair told talkSPORT. “He was a breath of fresh air.
“For me, I was surprised that Everton let him go because I have been to Everton and Goodison a few times where Theo has looked really on it and looks like he is happy and enjoying his football.
“Definitely over any kind of injuries, so yes he was a real threat.”
Walcott has scored two goals and provided two assists in 13 Premier League games for Southampton this season, while starting all of his appearances and only sitting out the Saints’ 2-0 win over Everton last October.
His presence has not entirely been missed at Goodison Park with Alex Iwobi stepping up to the challenge of deputising for James Rodriguez whilst the Colombian was out injured, with the Nigerian delivering some of his best Everton performances to date.
But it can now be considered a blunder by Everton’s Director of Football Marcel Brands to allow Walcott to join Southampton until his contract expires in the summer, as the former England international’s form will no doubt have attracted suitors this year.
Everton are now simply paying Walcott to put his services in the shop window ahead of becoming a free agent, which may not last for long with Hasenhuttl already confirming that he sees no reason why Southampton should not strive to finalise a long-term contract.
“I am very happy that he is comfortable here now and that he is happy to play for us and there is no reason why we should not think about keeping him longer here,” he said, via quotes by the Daily Mail, last month.
The Saints would certainly be wise to lock up a player that has become such a key weapon in Hasenhuttl’s armoury, with Danny Ings (2.1) and Che Adams (1.7) the only Southampton players offering more shots per Premier League game than the Everton-owned forward (1.6), per WhoScored.
Only James Ward-Prowse (1.6) and Adams (1.1) are providing more key passes than Walcott (0.9), too, while the 31-year-old – who ranks first at St. Mary’s for attempted dribbles (2.9) – further delivers 1.8 crosses a game, as the Saints march on in hopes of qualifying for Europe.
Everton, for whom Walcott would rank fourth for shots and fifth for key balls, may now be regretting their decision to allow the forward’s loan deal to go through and wave goodbye to any hopes of recouping anything of the fee paid to Arsenal at the start of 2018.