Theo Walcott is back where it all began, after holding out for a deadline day move to Southampton – where he spent his formative years in the club’s academy.
The winger was a such a precocious talent with the Saints he was given a Nike contract as a 14 year old, and at 16 became the youngest ever player in the club’s history, which earned a move to Arsenal before his 17th birthday.
Almost 15 years later his return is rather less celebrated than the during the 23 games he played for the south coast club, with Everton getting him off their books only after they agreed to pay some of his wages at St Mary’s Stadium.
With both Newcastle and Crystal Palace also in the chase for the former England player, Everton were rather keener on either of those clubs, given they were prepared to meet more of his wages.
But the player himself wanted a move back to Southampton, the town where he met his now wife Melanie, and the place he considers home.
And after making his preference clear, Everton relented, with manager Carlo Ancelotti admitting the player would get little game time this season.
Walcott was understood to be on a salary close to £100,000 a week after joining the Goodison club from Arsenal for more than £20m when still an England player, and a season after he scored 20 goals in the Premier League for the Gunners.
Everton wanted that off their wage bill after signing big stars like James Rodriguez and Brazilian Allan in the transfer window, and they could pay up to half of his contract for the next season to cut their losses.
Walcott has a year remaining on the three and a half year deal he signed with the Mersey club in 2018, and Everton will technically loan him to Southampton for the remainder of that year.
And it is understood he will then be given the option of a further year by Saints, who welcomed one of their most celebrated old boys back, after he travelled to Southampton for a medical late in the afternoon.
It has been a hectic and unique transfer window so far – so make sure you don’t miss a single thing by signing up for the brilliant new Mirror Football newsletter!
You’ll been clued up on Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and more as clubs buy their way through the summer. All the latest transfer news and big stories will land straight into your inbox. You won’t miss out.
To sign up, put your email at the top of this article or follow the instructions on this link.
Walcott suffered at Goodison after being signed by perhaps the most unpopular manager amongst the fans in the club’s history, Sam Allardyce.
Since then he has played under three different managers, with decreasingly less impact, and leaves after just 79 games for the club – 23 of those from the bench – a cost of almost £260,000 per game, based on his original fee.
But Saints fans won’t mind that.
They got £10m from Arsenal when he left in 2006, and he returns with the hope of ending his career with his teenage club.
Sign up to the Mirror Football email here for the latest news and transfer gossip.