This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
It can often be a tricky task to reintegrate a player into your squad after shipping them out on loan, especially if they aren’t regarded as an up-and-coming youngster in need of game time.
In Ralph Hasenhuttl’s case, he found two cases of this exact situation at his doorstep this summer when Sofiane Boufal and Cedric Soares returned from their loan spells at Celta Vigo and Inter Milan respectively.
Did they enjoy their time away and want to go back? Would they potentially still be bitter about being loaned out in the first place? How would they react to not being a guaranteed starter from the off?
These could all have been questions on the mind of Hasenhuttl this summer, but he deserves a lot of credit for the way in which he has gone about reintegrating the duo.
Since the pair of them returned this summer, Hasenhuttl has slowly eased them back into the fold in professional, and admirable, fashion.
The former RB Leipzig boss spoke of his delight at Boufal’s performance in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United, while Cedric revealed that he was “very happy to be back” after the recent 1-0 win over Sheffield United.
He was handed an opportunity to impress from the first whistle in the aforementioned Carabao Cup game against Fulham, where Hasenhuttl was left “convinced” by Boufal after the final whistle had sounded – he earned a start against Manchester United for his efforts, and it’s safe to say the former Lille man grabbed his chance with both hands as the Saints earned a 1-1 draw. He also laid on an assist in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United at the weekend.
In terms of Cedric’s impact, he too was handed a chance to impress against the Cottagers following talk of a move to Monaco in the summer window, and he has since managed to regain his place in the team having started against United and the Blades.
The pair’s return to the fold has yielded a total of four points from a possible six, while their efforts against Fulham saw the Saints rewarded with a trip to arch-rivals Portsmouth in the next round.
Things could have gone one of two ways for the pair this summer with their futures at St Mary’s uncertain, but Hasenhuttl deserves huge credit for keeping them focused and reintegrating them as well as he has done.