Could this be Manolo Gabbiadini's last season at Southampton?
Manolo Gabbiadini’s Southampton career has wavered in the past 18 months. Both a lack of form and playing time suggest the Italian striker is fighting for his future at St Mary’s.
After underperforming last season, Gabbiadini is now on Saints' periphery. Manager Mark Hughes has consistently overlooked the 26-year-old in favour of a new summer signing.
Southampton signed Gabbiadini from Napoli in January 2017. He took little time to find feet in England, scoring four times in his first three Premier League outings before netting a brace in the EFL Cup final. The goals have since dried up, however.
Despite having three years remaining on his Saints deal, it's hard to envisage Gabbiadini staying until 2021. Especially if his current situation fails to improve.
Fallen down the pecking order
Southampton paid £14 million for Gabbiadini's signature toward the end of 2017's winter transfer window. Four days after signing, he found the scoresheet during his full home debut in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham United. A week later, he bagged twice more to help down Sunderland, 4-0.
Only 15 days passed before the best moment of Gabbiadini's career to date. He scored two goals at Wembley in the League Cup final against Manchester United. It wasn't enough to get hands on the trophy as the Saints lost 3-2. Unperturbed, the frontman's form continued, finding the net in a 4-3 victory over Watford the following week.
Unfortunately for Gabbiadini, that’s the best it got. He went on to score only five times in his next 50 competitive appearances, falling down Southampton's pecking order as a result.
In Gabbiadini’s debut campaign, he averaged 66 minutes of Premier League football per game. In 2018/19, he’s averaging just 25.
Last season, Gabbiadini made 11 league starts and was an unused substitute on ten occasions. His goal drought meant he lost place in Southampton's starting eleven. Things have spiralled ever since.
Danny Ings has played his part in Gabbiadini's demise. The former Burnley and Liverpool forward is enjoying a bright start to life on the south coast, having scored three goals in eight league starts while leading the line alone in Hughes' system.
Shane Long and Charlie Austin provide backup for Ings. The pair has a combined 15 appearances this campaign, five of which have been starts.
Gabbiadini isn't in the Saints picture.
Agent issues soft ultimatum to Southampton
The striker’s agent, Silvio Pagliari, revealed his client had an offer to return to Italy this past summer. They didn't take it, stating Gabbiadini is ''happy'' at St Mary's. However, he did admit options will be reconsidered at season's end.
Gabbiadini? He’s happy at Southampton. There was the possibility of returning to Italy, but right now we want to play the cards in the Premier League. At the end of the season, we will draw the sums.
Playing the Premier League cards suggests the pair are biding time to see how things unfold. Should Gabbiadini get back in favour at Southampton, he may consider a long-term stay. If not, a summer exit looks likely.