On Tuesday, The Times reported Mario Lemina has been given permission to speak to Manchester United, ahead of a possible transfer to Old Trafford.
The claims of interest have been widespread, and it seems Southampton aren’t against selling the midfielder.
Joining Southampton from Juventus in 2017, Lemina settled in relatively quickly but last season wasn’t able to get the regularity he wanted. Injuries were one issue, however, it seems clear that hasn’t been the only problem, given his desire to leave the club this summer.
The 25 year old has now spoken to France Football about his situation. He didn’t mentione Manchester United or any other potential destination directly, but made it clear he’s on the exit ramp at Southampton.
Asked why he’s not been at the club’s preseason training, Lemina said: “I am physically preparing myself at the training centre, with a few other players including Charlie Austin and Jordy Clasie. I did not accompany the team in training in agreement with the coach. He wants to build his group with the players who want to stay at the club, so he left me out. As early as last year, I had set my conditions: I wanted to go elsewhere this summer. I was also very frustrated by my injury that lasted four months, so I really want to discover something else.”
The desire to leave the Saints is one which he’s had since joining, it all being part of a plan to take a further step in his career: “I had just decided to go to Southampton for two years, and see if I could take another step. We had agreed with the sports director. The injury arrived late December, it slowed me down, it’s a shame, but I do not want to go further with Southampton. I prefer that we stay on good terms, faithful to what we said.”
That suggests this may have been known by all parties right from the start.
Given his recent injury problems, Lemina was asked if it’s a risky time to move right now: “I’m not afraid, I made a choice and I take it to the end. I stand by my plan, I decided to tell the leaders that I wanted to leave, there is no turning back. There is a risk, of course, but I know what I’m capable of, I’m 100% and I’m going to prove that I can get back to my best. Some clubs may be more cautious, but they already know me. Today I am fully recovered, I worked a lot. I am ready to move on. The pubalgia (sports hernia) is a very hard to handle injury, which requires a lot of work. I did it and now I’m doing very well physically.”
The midfielder believes staying in the Premier League is the right step for him now, which would favour Manchester United interest, and he said: “I aspire to play in the biggest clubs, now we will see what is proposed. I had chosen to leave Juventus for Southampton to have more playing time, I got it. I made a good impression in England, I had good returns at a certain time, so I hope clubs will not have a short memory (laughs).”
And how about Champions League football, is that essential? Well, no, not according to the player himself: “It’s a bonus. If I have the opportunity to play this season, why not, but I’m really trying to regain consistency, become an important player in a team with high goals. I need to play! That’s really my priority. I want to show everyone what I can do.”