15 July 2024

Southampton boss Hughes angry after late blow

When Southampton were relegated from the Premier League last season, there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, an acceptance that it was going to happen sooner rather than later.

The Saints were one of several sides that lurked dangerously close to the trap door year after year, surviving by the skin of their teeth on numerous occasions, finishing no higher than 15th in four of their last five campaigns.

One reason for their plight was St Mary’s becoming a hunting ground for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, who continuously bled the club dry of its best talent, including Luke Shaw, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane.

While Southampton made a habit out of unearthing gems from leagues across Europe or unleashing stars from their youth academy, the 2018 summer transfer window, in particular, saw them struggle to replace the previous quality that was lost.

Jannik Vestegaard, Angus Gunn, Stuart Armstrong and Danny Ings all arrived, but the biggest disappointment of them all was the acquisition of fleet-footed Basel winger Mohamed Elyounoussi, who arrived when his stock was at its highest having shot onto the scene as a highly-rated winger.

How much did Southampton pay for Mohamed Elyounoussi?

Southampton suffered the devastating £10m loss of Dusan Tadic to Ajax in the summer of 2018 and replaced him with Mohamed Elyounoussi from Basel for £18m.

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At the time, the Saints thought that fee was a steal. The fleet-footed winger had produced incredible numbers in the Swiss Super League, posting an eye-watering 53 goal contributions in 84 appearances for Basel across two seasons, including a goal and an assist in the Champions League knockout stages against Manchester City.

The Morocco-born star was destined to become a world-beater and had the hallmarks of a player who could take the Premier League by storm. The searing pace, low centre of gravity to glide past defenders and ability to perform on the big stage all pointed towards Elyounoussi making a mockery of the price tag.

Upon his arrival, Saints boss Mark Hughes was excited about the possibility of working with such a talented player and was confident that the then 23-year-old could reach the potential that his formative years promised.

He said: “Mohamed is another very exciting addition to our attacking options. He has got an outstanding record of goals and assists in two different countries, and we have been extremely impressed by the intelligence he has shown in his play from a tactical point of view.

“He’s still at a young age as well, so we’re confident he can continue to improve and fulfil even more of his potential with us.”

The Norwegian signed a five-year deal with Southampton which outlined their European ambitions.

How did Mohamed Elyounoussi perform at Southampton?

For all of the hype and excitement surrounding the transfer, the Saints were to be let down by the impact Elyounoussi made across his difficult five-year spell.

Known for unleashing his box of tricks and frightening the life out of defenders with his electrifying pace, supporters anticipated entertainment in full flow and would have envisaged him becoming the next big-money player developed into a world-class talent by the club.

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