Southampton have been linked with a move for Brazilian free agent Wellington recently and if he were to join the Saints, it could be bad news for 20-year-old academy ace Will Smallbone.
According to reports in Brazil (via Sport Witness), Wellington’s agent has now confirmed the interest from Southampton in the 29-year-old, who is currently training on his own after being released by Athletico Paranaense last year.
Although it would be strange to see Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side bring in the midfielder, who has no experience playing outside of Brazil, if he were to sign, it could seriously harm Smallbone’s chances of featuring in the Austrian’s side this season.
The academy graduate looked to be on the verge of becoming a first-team regular last season, as he made nine appearances in the Premier League, as well as one appearance in the FA Cup, where he scored his only goal for the senior side to date.
However, he has been limited to just two appearances in the Premier League so far this season, both of which came in the Saints’ two opening fixtures and after they suffered defeat in both of those games, he has not featured since.
He has also made just two appearances in the Premier League 2 this season, as he is regularly on the bench for Southampton’s first-team but doesn’t get any minutes, which can’t be doing his progress any good.
Hasenhuttl has stuck with the midfield duo of James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu for much of the season, whilst Ibrahima Diallo has impressed on his rare starts in the absence of Romeu.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that Smallbone will be able to force his way back into the first-team any time soon, and if Wellington were to join, it would only harm his chances further.
After Smallbone made his Premier League debut in 2020, the Austrian manager was full of praise for him, saying:
“The whole package is strong, with a lot of potential in my view.
“He has a lot of things that really help a team, being good on the ball, covering a lot of distance, but also to work against the ball and win balls, this is very important.”
Therefore, Hasenhuttl clearly rates him, but you worry how much playing time he will get if the Saints add to their options in midfield during this month’s transfer window.