Southampton had won 68 per cent of their 2014/15 fixtures with Toby Alderweireld in the starting lineup prior to their Premier League clash at home to Crystal Palace last time out, managing to do so just 44 per cent of the time he was absent.
The Belgium international’s return heralding a 1-0 win will have surprised few avid football watchers, but focus has turned to the on loan Atletico Madrid man’s future, which seems some way from certain.
Saints are thought to have agreed a deal in principle to sign Alderweireld this summer, but the La Liga champions kept the option of selling to the highest bidder if the centre-half’s services are in high demand.
Here at news.bwin.com, we’ve tried to make sense of, in the player’s words, an expected ‘hectic summer’ by laying out the likeliest destinations.
If Alderweireld heads back to the Spanish capital he will face the same problems as last season, with centre-halves Diego Godin and Miranda, plus right back Juanfran, all blocking his route to the first team.
With none of the trio much over 30, the 26-year-old would face a mammoth task to dislodge any of them.
No doubt Diego Simeone would prefer to keep Alderweireld around the Vicente Calderon, but with regular first-team football unlikely to be on the table, Los Colchoneros will probably cash in on a player who reportedly cost a paltry £6m just 18 months ago.
The former Ajax youth has indicated that he likes the lie of the land in the Premier League, while clearly indicating there’s a chance he could remain with this season’s surprise top-four challengers beyond May.
We know Ronald Koeman has plenty of money at his disposal following the great Southampton sale of summer 2014, much of it from Liverpool. However, Saints may end up as victims of their own success.
What is to stop Atleti claiming Alderweireld’s worth as at least that of Dejan Lovren, for whom the south-coasters squeezed £20m out of Liverpool seven-and-a-half months ago?
It could be time for St Mary’s supremo Katharina Liebherr to pony up some of that dough.
Much of the recent speculation regarding Alderweireld has emanated from Spurs’ direction, with the Telegraph claiming over the weekend that the Lilywhites may be willing to pay up to £10m for his services, although that’s unlikely to be enough.
Considering Spurs have been going rather well of late with Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier at centre-half, and taking into account Federico Fazio’s perceived improvement in recent months, it would be something of a surprise if the Lilywhites blow a large chunk of their summer budget on Alderweireld.
However, that could all change if the oft-linked fellow Belgian, who is thought to have admirers at Barcelona, is coaxed away from White Hart Lane during the silly season.