April 24, 2024

If Taylor Harwood-Bellis does not stay for the long term, Southampton may consider this forgotten figure.
Southampton will be lamenting the timing of the international break, as they will have to wait until the end of the month to play again in order to prevent Leeds United and Leicester City from running away with the Championship top two.

The Saints had won their last two second-tier games in thrilling encounters, with the South Coast defence breached five times in those 4-3 and 4-2 victories, and Russell Martin’s men’s attack was luckily explosive, taking the emphasis away from some awful defending.

Still, the promotion contenders will be disappointed if they have to say goodbye to Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis at the conclusion of the season; the teenage centre-back is rumored to be in line for a permanent move, but only if Southampton return to the Premier League.

If the 22-year-old simply returns to City, the door may open for this overlooked Saints player to be given another chance.

Duje Caleta-Car’s time at Southampton

Duje Caleta-Car may be five years older than Harwood-Bellis, but the Croatian centre-back is determined to prove any Saints critics wrong if given another chance under Martin next season.

Caleta-Car, before returning to France with Olympique Lyonnais on the eve of current Championship season, was seen as a “impressive” purchase by Southampton in 2022, according to journalist Dean Jones, leaving Olympique de Marseille for £8 million to join the Saints.

However, the 27-year-old defender would face a difficult transition to the Premier League after leaving the luxuries of Ligue 1.

Caleta-Car made only 13 games in the top level during Southampton’s disastrous relegation season, contributing only one clean sheet.

The Saints number six would encourage fans with some of his performances away from his poor defensive effort, scoring a goal against Arsenal near the conclusion of the season as the South Coast club stunned the Gunners on their home turf in a 3-3 draw.

Caleta-Car also shown his serenity on the ball, playing out of the back with an 85% passing accuracy, far from being the tenacious figure his team required deep in a relegation battle.

As a result, the 27-year-old could be well-suited to a comeback under Martin’s possession-heavy style, with the Saints averaging 66.2% possession this season, according to FBRef.

He has also performed admirably for Lyon while on loan, despite the fact that the French club is now ranked tenth in Ligue 1.

How Duje Caleta-Car is playing out on loan

How close did Caleta-Car come to joining Liverpool? Southampton defender  reflects on transfer near miss | Goal.com Nigeria

 

It would make sense for Martin to examine Caleta-Car as a potential Harwood-Bellis replacement, which would save the Saints money on adding more bodies to the building to battle with the likes of Jack Stephens at the back.

Similarly, Caleta-Car’s exploits in France this season suggest that he deserves another chance to prove his worth to the Southampton team.

The 27-year-old has started Lyon’s past seven league games, and has been a key component at the back as the underperforming giants strive to turn their season around with six wins in that span.

Lyon’s effective 1-0 shutout of OGC Nice last month demonstrated Caleta-Car at his finest, which would have attracted Martin’s attention while assessing how his loanees are performing.

The Croatian defender would walk away from the win having misplaced only three of his 44 passes while also digging deep when needed, winning 75% of his duels as a powerful presence.

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