Southampton fans rejoiced as Nathan Redmond was handed a new four-year contract in the summer.
Mild concerns had grown regarding the player’s situation at St Mary’s; with just two seasons remaining on his deal, and on the back of an excellent campaign, securing his future was a necessity.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s contractual situation is similar. Southampton fans regard him as a much-loved figure, and he has not yet penned a new contract at the club despite his deal expiring in the summer of 2021.
Plenty of the Saints faithful will be keen to see the Dane commit his future to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, but ahead of next year, there are three players whose deals come to an end, meaning that Southampton could lose them on free transfers.
So, just who makes up the trio of stars who could depart if contracts aren’t signed, and do they deserve new deals? Let’s take a look.
Cedric was hardly expected to stay at Southampton last summer. After Hasenhuttl sent him to Inter on loan for the second half of the 2018/19 campaign, an exit appeared likely.
However, the Portugal international has been reintegrated into the club’s first-team squad and has started the past two matches against Fulham in the Carabao Cup and Manchester United in the Premier League.
Cedric has been battling Yan Valery for the right-back position, and just who Hasenhuttl prefers is currently unclear.
He is now 28-years-old and sees his contract expire at the end of the season. While he is undoubtedly a competent backup or rotational option to have, renewing his deal would not tie in with Hasenhuttl’s ethos of developing youngsters to fill places in the squad.
Cedric will also be keen to play regular football at the top level as he approaches his thirties. A good campaign could convince Hasenhuttl to keep hold of him for a little while longer, but it would come as no surprise to see the EURO 2016 winner move on next summer with young Kayne Ramsay taking his place as a deputy for Valery…
Another man whose deal at St Mary’s is set to expire next summer is Shane Long.
The forward has fallen out of favour under Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy as a consequence of his lack of playing time at Southampton, and his prospects under Hasenhuttl are hardly encouraging.
Throughout the opening exchanges of the season, the boss has preferred to use Michael Obafemi off the bench, with Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond and Che Adams preferred as the club’s options in the attacking berths.
Long, now 32, is arguably past his best and is no longer the type of player who Hasenhuttl is keen to continue accommodating. He appeared to suit his style towards the back-end of last season – he netted four goals in the final seven games – but now seems to be surplus to requirements.
It seems Southampton have enjoyed Long’s best years, and with the aforementioned attackers at Hasenhuttl’s disposal, I’m not sure he’ll be jumping at the chance to commit his future to St Mary’s in the unlikely event that a contract offer falls his way.
While Ings, Redmond, Adams and Obafemi are set to continue as the preferred four attackers, young Dan N’Lundulu will also be pushing to progress from the Under-23 ranks to the first-team squad.
Last but certainly not least, we have Yoshida. He is another who has been on the fringes this season, but his exclusion has been slightly less understandable than the aforementioned duo.
The 31-year-old has been a valuable member of several managers’ squads throughout the years at St Mary’s, but he has been scarcely used by Hasenhuttl this season, with Jannik Vestergaard, Jan Bednarek and Kevin Danso generally preferred in the central defensive berths.
Many have called for Yoshida to play more regularly, and there is certainly a case to be made that he is more dependable than Vestergaard, whose errors have arguably cost Saints more dearly since the start of last season than those of his Japanese counterpart.
While Hasenhuttl will be keen to look towards the future and may be reluctant to have ageing players in the first-team squad, retaining some form of experience and pedigree – Yoshida is approaching a century of caps for Japan and is their captain – would be useful.
Since arriving at St Mary’s in the summer of 2012, Yoshida has been begrudgingly settled in a backup role, and if he remains of a similar mindset, it is surely a no-brainer to keep hold of him beyond next year, given the dearth of central defenders in the academy who could clearly make the step up.