We’ve been asking the fans who they think have been the best signings of the summer. This is your list and this, is your number 3.
The Premier League world watched in awe as new Southampton signing, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, delivered an eloquent riposte to why the Saints’ lost 2-0 at the hands of Manchester United last month. You may be less surprised with the midfielder’s articulation if you were to know his relationship with current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, whose path he crossed during his Bayern Munich days.
As Guardiola walked into his adventure in German football, he had been alerted by the presence of a player labelled as the Danish ‘Talent of the Year’, aged just 17. That player was Højbjerg, a midfielder who had been scouted extensively under the orders of the then new Bayern Munich manager and fast-tracked to the first team shortly after. Guardiola’s relationship with the youngster was described as obsessive, creating hope of uncovering a new Sérgio Busquets, just as the Catalan had done at Barcelona.
Bayern Munich’s depth, boasting names like Toni Kroos, Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcântara, Bastian Schweinsteiger and more within their ranks, limited Højbjerg’s first-team opportunities, however, with the midfielder racking up just 218 minutes of football in the 2013/14 season, just 63 more than he’s already amassed as a Southampton player this season.
The Denmark international was loaned out midway through the following season, as he helped guide an Augsburg side to Europa League qualification, but his follow-up loan spell at FC Schalke wasn’t to be so successful, finishing fifth, outside the club’s goal of a Champions League qualifying spot.
Upon his return to the Bavarians, it was agreed that his career was in need of a fresh start, as the 20-year-old chose Southampton, lauded for the nurturing of young talent, to help fulfil his potential in a £13 million move to the St. Mary’s Stadium.
As his comparisons to Busquets suggest, Højbjerg is capable of playing at the base of midfield and succeed the departing Victor Wanyama, meanwhile he also has the physicality and technical ability to play further afield.
The numbers of average tackles made by the former Bayern Munich man stand very close to Wanyama’s, with the latter succeeding every 36.2 minutes versus Højbjerg’s 38.6-minute interval at Schalke last season. Southampton’s new signing also leads the way against those still at the club in interceptions made in league competitions last season, averaging 3.65 per game to Jordy Clasie’s club best of 3.22.
Furthermore, none of the aforementioned players come close to Højbjerg’s control on the ball, who completed on average 47.63 successful passes with an 88% pass accuracy, some way off the most well-rounded register from Oriol Romeu, who did so with 38.67 passes made and a success rate of 85%.
There’s more to come from Højbjerg, who contributed just once to a goal via an assist in his 23 Bundesliga appearances for Schalke. But, as mentioned previously, the midfielder is also still 20-years-old and the heartbreak and experience gained since the age of 17 could serve him well for the season ahead, as his refreshing maturity exemplified a few weeks ago following the Man United game.
Overall, it seems as though Southampton have done their homework very well, once more. Among the relentless cash burning of the Premier League, soaring to £1.6 billion in spending this summer, Southampton have managed to bag a very promising, yet weathered star for just £12.75 million. Højbjerg now has somewhere to settle, grow and, potentially, become yet another Saints player to one day leave for a huge profit.