Southampton have paid the price for their rather poor recruitment of players from across Europe in recent transfer windows.
It has become apparent that current owner Gao Jisheng is unwilling to invest significant sums into the club’s transfer budget, with plenty of money having already been wasted on underperforming senior players.
The Saints attempted to cut their losses on some of these arrivals during the past two transfer windows but were mostly unsuccessful, and were forced to settle for loans this season.
This failure to successfully sell players left Ralph Hasenhuttl with little choice but to stick with the options he had at his disposal from January onwards, as sufficient funds were evidently unavailable.
Ahead of the manager’s first full pre-season at Southampton, though, a barrage of previously unseen players will return following their loan deals.
We’ve taken a look at what the future may hold for the eight men who have been temporarily away, and delivered our verdict on whether or not Saints should keep or sell them!
Our list excludes club legend Steven Davis, whose contract at St Mary’s Stadium concludes following his short-term loan deal at Rangers at the end this season.
Carrillo, Southampton’s club-record signing at £19 million, reunited with Mauricio Pellegrino at Leganes last summer on a season-long loan deal.
He has scored six goals in La Liga, including a vital last-minute winner against Real Valladolid recently, but has struggled to make an impression.
The former Monaco man never truly hit the ground running at Southampton, and his future at the club appears to be in doubt.
Verdict: The Saints can do better than Carrillo. He was ineffective at best during his half-season at the club, and he isn’t a particularly good fit for Hasenhuttl’s style.
After shining on loan at Norwich City, many had expected Reed to stick around and feature for Southampton this season. Instead, he was sent back out to the Championship, this time with Blackburn Rovers.
The midfielder has played in a multitude of roles, often on the right, and has been impressive for Tony Mowbray’s side in what has been a mixed season at Ewood Park.
Southampton are blessed with options in midfield, and with Reed now 24-years-old, his long-term future at the club is in doubt.
Verdict: It would be a crying shame for all parties involved if Reed doesn’t make it at St Mary’s, but this is the way that his career appears to be heading. He has the makings of a quintessential Hasenhuttl player given his tenacity and aggressive work off the ball, but he could benefit from regular football elsewhere.
If Ronald Koeman hadn’t insisted on signing Jordy Clasie in 2015 when Reed was ready to make the step up and play in the Premier League consistently, thereby obstructing the youngster’s pathway to the first team, things may well have been different for the academy graduate.
Boufal’s arrival at Southampton in 2016 was met by plenty of anticipation and excitement, but a blend of mismanagement, ill-discipline and inconsistency has seen him struggle.
The winger was loaned out to Celta Vigo for the 2018/19 campaign, and despite showing signs of brilliance, his bad habits have continued. Boufal has been maligned for selfishness and poor decision-making, overshadowing his undeniable talents on the ball.
Upon his return to St Mary’s this summer, it’d be easily arguable that Boufal will be the most talented player at Hasenhuttl’s disposal. Whether or not his ability will be married by commitment and a willingness to learn, however, is uncertain.
Verdict: Boufal’s situation is a truly sad one, as he has all the makings of an exceptional footballer. He appears too set in his ways to flourish in Hasenhuttl’s system given his propensity to hold on to the ball for prolonged periods.
However, it could certainly be worth giving the Moroccan a chance to impress in pre-season, as he most certainly can’t be worse than Mohamed Elyounoussi.
Clasie returned last summer from a loan spell at Club Brugge to then move back to Feyenoord for his second stint in Dutch football.
The midfielder has been a critical player for his boyhood club but has hardly set the world alight, turning in quietly efficient displays without particularly standing out.
He has little more than a year remaining on his current contract at St Mary’s, and it’d be a surprise to see him stay at the club to see the end of his deal.
While Clasie suits Hasenhuttl’s impetus placed upon pressing and quick turnovers, he has shown that he lacks the fitness and consistency to succeed.
Verdict: Southampton have a plethora of midfielders who are better than Clasie, and the club should be pursuing a permanent sale of the midfielder.
McQueen joined Middlesbrough on a season-long loan deal in the summer after the club opted to keep hold of Matt Targett amid interest from Fulham.
The left-back arrived at the Riverside Stadium to push for more regular game time but was dealt a cruel blow as a long-term knee injury ended his season in November.
Now 24, it is hard to see a future at Southampton for McQueen, with Targett and Ryan Bertrand ahead of him in the pecking order of left-backs.
Verdict: The academy graduate once boasted the potential to be a success at the club, but things haven’t quite worked out for him. A permanent move away to rejuvenate his career is necessary for McQueen.
Hesketh joined League One side Burton Albion on loan for the first half of the season, impressed, and was then sent out on loan to League Two outfit MK Dons.
It comes as no surprise to see him flourish at an even lower level, and the 23-year-old is showing exactly the kind of ability that he has regularly done for the club’s youth sides.
Injury problems have plagued Hesketh’s time at Southampton, but he is among the most talented players plucked from their youth ranks.
Verdict: It doesn’t seem as though there will be a place in Hasenhuttl’s plans for the playmaker, and that is a real shame. He was once the club’s most exciting youngster, but mismanagement has left him without a clear role with the Saints.
Hesketh still can make it in the top flight, but for the good of his own career and development, a permanent move away to a place where he will regularly play would probably be beneficial.
Cedric was deemed surplus to Hasenhuttl’s requirements in January and joined Inter Milan on loan, with Yan Valery stepping up as the club’s main right-back.
The Portuguese international doesn’t appear to be in the long-term plans of the Italian giants but hasn’t exactly underwhelmed since arriving at San Siro.
Cedric has been steady under Luciano Spalletti when he has played but has hardly set the world alight. In his absence, Saints haven’t struggled, either, with Valery growing with every game he plays.
Verdict: It seems inevitable that Cedric will be back at St Mary’s following his loan deal, but pushing for a sale again wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Signing a new, younger right-back to compete with Valery could be a smart move from Saints, with Hasenhuttl’s demands and his stylistic preferences now taking priority.
Cedric won’t be short of suitors in the summer and is by no means a bad player, but his tenure at St Mary’s probably should be cut short in the immediate future.
Netherlands international Hoedt joined Southampton in a deal worth £15 million from Lazio in 2017, and expectations were high.
However, it’s safe to say that the Dutchman has been a catastrophic failure at the club, and is now somewhat a figure of fun among the St Mary’s faithful.
Hoedt relentlessly has made errors during his one-and-a-half seasons at Southampton so far, and this saw him loaned to Celta Vigo in January.
He’s turned in some good displays since getting sent off on his debut but has largely looked dodgy, which will come as no surprise to Southampton fans.
Verdict: Hoedt isn’t good enough. Hasenhuttl doesn’t have him in his plans, and there is only one outcome for the defender at St Mary’s, and that involves him heading out of the exit door.
Southampton must now hope that Celta Vigo stay up in La Liga this season, as they could then look to activate their option to buy Hoedt.