Southamp­ton remain firm­ly in the hunt for auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion head­ing into the busi­ness end of the gru­elling Cham­pi­onship cam­paign.

Rus­sell Martin‘s side have their work cut out but are more than capa­ble of mak­ing an instant return to the Pre­mier League.

In the Jan­u­ary trans­fer win­dow, the club were in the mar­ket for a right winger to improve their chances of a top-two fin­ish.

Burnley’s Manuel Ben­son, who was described as ‘elec­tric’ dur­ing his sparkling sea­son in the Cham­pi­onship, was their ini­tial tar­get before sign­ing David Brooks.

The move for Ben­son broke down due to Burn­ley chang­ing the con­di­tions of the loan deal late on, which left Saints offi­cials to walk away from the nego­ti­at­ing table.

The Bel­gian winger must now be ruing that missed oppor­tu­ni­ty, as he finds him­self play­ing a bit part role in the Clarets’ rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight.

Manuel Benson must regret failed Southampton move

Crystal Palace v Burnley FC - Premier League
Pho­to by Rob Newell – Cam­eraS­port via Get­ty Images

Ben­son has played just 87 min­utes of Pre­mier League foot­ball this sea­son and has been an unused sub­sti­tute on sev­en occa­sions.

Vin­cent Kom­pa­ny clear­ly believes he just isn’t of the lev­el required in the top-flight and hav­ing played so lit­tle, he must be wish­ing he did com­plete the mid-sea­son move to the South Coast club.

The left-foot­ed wide play­er would’ve played a key role in Southampton’s top-two charge and may well have found him­self sign­ing with the club on a per­ma­nent deal in the sum­mer.

Now, as we approach the final stretch of the sea­son, Ben­son could find him­self back in the Cham­pi­onship next sea­son, as Burn­ley reside five points adrift of safe­ty.

There could be a sce­nario where Saints bounce back into the Pre­mier League, too, which would only ampli­fy Benson’s missed oppor­tu­ni­ty.

Though, with Brooks expect­ed to return to Bournemouth at the end of the sea­son, per­haps the door isn’t com­plete­ly shut on the 26-year-old.

Manuel Benson could still join Southampton

Brooks has enjoyed a pro­duc­tive loan spell under Mar­tin thus far but he isn’t expect­ed to sign on a per­ma­nent basis.

That will leave Southamp­ton again look­ing for a right-sided winger in the sum­mer and a deal for Ben­son could re-emerge.

Kom­pa­ny just doesn’t fan­cy him, at least in the Pre­mier League, so he could be made avail­able once again.

Mar­tin is clear­ly an admir­er and if Saints do remain in the Cham­pi­onship next sea­son, he would be the ide­al replace­ment for Brooks.

The under-21 Bel­gium inter­na­tion­al shone in the sec­ond tier dur­ing the 2022/23 sea­son, scor­ing 12 goals whilst lay­ing on three assists.

So Benson’s Southamp­ton move may not be com­plete­ly dead.

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