Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl decided last summer that he didn’t want £18m man Mario Lemina to be part of his plans for this season, and the Gabon international was subsequently loaned out to Galatasaray.
It was somewhat of a big call given the midfielder played 25 times in 2018/19 despite suffering a significant injury, and averaged a WhoScored rating of 6.8 in the league – particularly now that he has fared rather well in Turkey.
Four games at Champions League level in 2019/20 show he has occasionally played at a higher standard too so could come back to the south coast an improved player, and it will be interesting to see if Hasenhuttl grants him another chance to impress.
After all, he only has three senior central midfielders in the squad currently and of those Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could be heading for the exit in summer, as Tottenham previously showed an interest and the captain has rejected a new contract.
There could be space for Lemina, therefore, but the Saints have coped fairly well without him, and the Austrian boss may not want to upset the dynamic by bringing him back into the fold.
Our writers have been discussing what the best course of action for the club to take is, and their responses can be found below.
Calling all FFC readers! Raise money for charities and bring together communities this Saturday the 28th at 3pm by taking part in the #FLYTHEFLAG campaign. Click this banner to find out how you can get involved.
“I really cannot see a future for Mario Lemina at Southampton. The Gabon international was frozen out of Southampton’s first-team schedule by Ralph Hasenhuttl, as too was Charlie Austin who has since been sold by the Saints – I can only see the same fate for the former Juventus man.
“Obviously, Lemina has talent – it is his attitude and application that lets him down, judging by Hasenhuttl’s decision to freeze him out.
“From a financial aspect, it would make sense for Hasenhuttl to at least attempt to reintegrate the midfielder, seeing as he cost Southampton a significant £18.1m. However, it feels like Lemina has burnt his bridges at St Mary’s – for what it’s worth, impressing in Turkey doesn’t mean that much anyway, so maybe for the club it’s best to cut ties with the player.
“After all, Papiss Cisse is second top-scorer in the division!”
“Ralph Hasenhuttl possibly made the wrong decision in loaning out Mario Lemina this season as he has gone onto impress in the Super Lig. As a standalone defensive midfielder, the 26-year-old has an average WhoScored rating of 7.59 whilst overall, across all competitions including the Champions League, he is recording 2.1 tackles, 1.3 interceptions and 2 dribbles per match.
“These are very astute figures and show he’s more than capable of thriving back in the Premier League, and with doubts over the future of the Saints skipper recently, he could be the perfect replacement for Hojbjerg should he indeed decide to exit St Mary’s this summer. If so, it would save the club millions in the long-run and it gives Hasenhuttl a chance to strengthen another area instead.”
“It was only in the summer of 2019 that talkSPORT was reporting that Manchester United, Arsenal and Leicester City were all fighting to sign Lemina. Now, after letting him go to Galatasaray for a season, Hasenhuttl must reintegrate him back into the side.
“The midfielder has impressive numbers this term, as has been mentioned above, but it is also his physical attributes that can be of use to the Saints. He is an imposing figure at 6 ft who can cover ground effortlessly, and if the manager wanted to give Will Smallbone more game time next term, Lemina would be the perfect profile of player to have alongside him.”
“There is a reason why he was signed by Juventus and perhaps all he needed was a confidence boost after two years playing for a Southampton side that struggled in the lower echelons of the division.
“He could be a breath of fresh air at St. Mary’s if he returns with a point to prove to his manager and teammates, and that means Ralph Hasenhuttl shouldn’t stand in his way and refuse to give him game time.
“Hojbjerg’s potential exit means the Southampton may need to recruit in midfield anyway, and there are few better options than a player who is already familiar with the club.”
Meanwhile, one Southampton player’s post should lift spirits in these uncertain times…