La Liga giants want Southampton star to return, shock exit is possible

Toby Alderweireld

Reports in Spain suggest that Atletico Madrid now want to keep Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld.

Southampton's start to the season has been beyond their wildest dreams, with new signings such as Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle helping fans forget about the departures of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert.

New manager Ronald Koeman has earned plaudits for the way his Saints side have played, and Saturday's 2-0 win over Leicester City means they remain just four points behind leaders Chelsea.

The key to their blistering start has been their defence. After 11 games, Southampton have conceded just five goals - by far the fewest in the Premier League.

Replacing Dejan Lovren was always going to be a difficult task, but Koeman has arguably improved upon the Croatian by signing Toby Aldereweireld.

The Belgian international, 25, joined the Saints on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day, having failed to supplant Diego Godin or Miranda in Diego Simeone's La Liga-winning side.

It seemed the perfect marriage - whilst Alderweireld was with Ajax in the Netherlands, Koeman was with their big rivals Feyenoord, and was clearly impressed enough to bring him to the South Coast as a sensible replacement for Lovren.

So far, Alderweireld has been excellent - whilst Lovren has struggled at Liverpool - and a permanent, £6.3m deal was arranged for next summer. Only now, his great performances could be an issue for Southampton.

Reports in Spain suggest that Atletico inserted a clause into the loan deal where they could cancel the permanent transfer for a fee of £1.2m and take him back to the Spanish capital.

There are two trains of thought for Atleti - either keep the versatile defender for their own squad, or use his great performances for Southampton as a driver for a higher price than the aforementioned £6.3m.

If Atleti do take Alderweireld back to Madrid, it's a huge blow for Koeman and Southampton. They did also sign Romanian international Florin Gardos this summer, but he's played just 47 minutes of Premier League football so far.

The Saints have to hope and pray that Alderweireld can force his parent club to allow him to stay on the South Coast, rather than complicate his future.

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