In the 2017/18 summer transfer window, Southampton completed the signing of the Gabonese star Mario Lemina from Juventus – the 24-year-old is the Saints club record signing.
With a deal being agreed around the £18 million mark, an initial £15.4m was paid and the rest to come based on Lemina’s success at the club. He is taking over from last summer’s signing of Sofiane Boufal as the Southampton’s club-record signing – the Moroccan attacking midfielder joined Southampton from Lille for £16 million.
Considering Lemina is still young he has bags of experience from his time at the Old Lady, racking up 42 appearances from the side in this winning a Serie A title and the Coppa Italia twice – he also was a part of last season’s Champions League final against Real Madrid.
It wasn’t just Southampton interested in acquiring Lemina’s services this summer – other Premier League clubs like Leicester, Watford, Stoke and Arsenal all showed interest in the defensive midfielder. It was the Saints that convinced the player to join the Premier League conquest – with him saying, “I am really happy to have signed for Southampton. It was the project that attracted me the most”
One of Lamina’s main strengths is his versatility on the pitch, he’s a box to box player but has been used as a winger, full-back, wing-back and centre-back during his time at Marseille in 2014/15. By proving himself in all these positions will represent to Mauricio Pellegrino he can be used pretty much anywhere except up front. He can be quite physical on the pitch using his strength in the centre of the park to win battles and shield to the ball to keep possession, his passing ability and pace offers a counter attacking option to a team, these aspects of his play are very similar to Paul Pogba who played with Lemina until 2016.
Even though Lemina has showed all this talent on the pitch physically he still needs to work on his mental game, as he is not finished product but has a foundation to build on and with the right coaching he can become one of the world best players. His biggest weakness is that he has gained the reputation as a bit of a hothead on the pitch, this has been shown from the early days in his career. In the first season at Juve he accumulated three yellows and a red card just in 13 appearances. There have been signs of improvement as in the second season he only picked up two yellow and a red card in 31 appearances for the side. Also, to maintain his concentration on the pitch as when pressured on the ball he often tries to play his way out of trouble instead to passing the ball.
These traits come from the age of the player, and greater the amount playing time he gets the more he will improve. Cementing a regular starting berth for the Saints will help this as in the next few seasons he will be going into the prime of his career, and could play a major key role in pushing the team further up the table. Will Southampton be able to hold on to this promising star?
Only time will tell.
Written by Josh White.