Will Mario Lemina Be Saints New Central Defender Or End Up At Newcastle
Friday, 25th Jun 2021 08:57
With Mario Lemina returning from Fulham after their relegation it was widely assumed that he might end up out on loan again for the coming season and indeed Newcastle United are said to be interested, but there could be another option for Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Mario Lemina's time at St Mary's has not been a productive one, on his arrival in August 2017 Saints fans initially thought that they were signing a hidden gem, a player who had been part of the Juventus set up and had played in a Champions League final.
At the start he looked a class act, but we soon found that he had no consistency and that he seemed a player who was great when you where up against the lower team, but went missing a lot when the going got tough, in cricket they label batsmen like this fast track bullies.
In his first season his performances declined and in the run in to escaping relegation he was often out of Mark Hughes squad with the new manager seemingly unconvinced about his talents.
In 2018/19 he seemed to have knuckled down and was a regular in Hughes starting line up,, but after he was sacked and replaced by Ralph Hasenhuttl, Lemina's first team career was virtually over, part of that was an abdominal strain, which the club injury news seemed to be hinting was a bit of a mystery and since the final game of that season his name hasn't graced a Southampton teamsheet, going out on loan for the past two seasons, firstly to Galatasaray in Turkey and then last season to Fulham.
At Craven Cottage he seems to have had a mixed season, he missed almost a quarter through injury and of the other 30 games he was involved in, he started 19, was subbed in on another 9 and an unused sub on the other game.
Like at Saints, at times he could be great, at others anonymous.
Saints must have been praying for Fulham to stay up as apparently there was an agreement for a permanent move in place, but that seems to have been scuppered by the Cottagers relegation and Lemina will return to pre season training at Staplewood in the last year of his contract.
Most would have assumed that his final season as a "Saints player" would be spent out on loan elsewhere, with Lemina unwilling to take a pay cut for a permanent move, or at best managing to get someone to take a chance on a permanent deal as with Wesley Hoedt and the player opting for a reduction wages but the security of a longer term deal.
That could well become the case with Newcastle United said to be ready to make a move for Lemina, but interestingly Ralph Hasenhuttl may be considering other plans for the player and bring him back from the cold.
Hampshire Live have said that The Austrian had this to say about Lemina:
"We are following all of our loan players and we have reports on them, with some, we are consistently in contact and we have our staff members doing this all the time.
"It is always helpful if somebody goes somewhere and performs quite well. I think his season so far, although he has played for a relegated team, was not the worst, definitely.
“He had some very good games and I saw the goal he scored against Liverpool. It was definitely for him a good step back in the Premier League.
"In the last game he played centre-back and this was interesting to see.”
“We are following and then we will find a decision this summer."
So could Ralph be planning to employ him in the back four this season, certainly it could be an option, it cannot be denied that Lemina is a quality player and that he can read the game and play the ball out, something that we do lack in the centre of our defence.
So this could well be something that Ralph considers, however , part of the reason why Saints have bombed him out is allegedly his behaviour and attitude off the field, although not wild and out of control, it is said to be not that of a footballer in the Premier League in the modern game.
But if that is not bad enough he is said to have influenced younger players along the same path, both Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery have been rumoured to have been under his spell.
This of course is just speculation and there is no inference his behaviour has been as bad as some of his fellow professionals in the Premier League, but for him football seems just a way of funding his lifestyle and is a distraction.
That being the case his dedication and application is missing, he is certainly a talented player, but his CV is littered with short spells at different clubs and none have seemed that enthusiastic about keeping him.
Lemina will turn 28 on September 1st, he is coming to the end of his career, he is at a crossroads, has he matured and will he make a comeback at St Mary's as a central defender or is that just Ralph trying to advertise him to other clubs, ideally Saints would get him off the books on a permanent basis, the problem for Saints in buying players isn't so much the transfer fee, but getting high earners off the books to make room on the wage bill for new signings.
Photo: Action Images
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