After a rocky start to Championship life this season, Southampton are starting to stamp their authority onto the second tier – Russell Martin’s Saints unbeaten in their last eight league encounters, with impressive victories over Leeds United and West Brom standout results from this run.
Adam Armstrong has unsurprisingly reverted back to being a prolific striker in the division below the Premier League, Southampton’s leading man has already netted nine goals from 16 games to put him very much in the running for the golden boot accolade come the end of the 46-game season.
The Saints could benefit from having another prolific attacker in the ranks to not just overly rely on the ex Newcastle United man, with this former hero who plated on the South Coast excelling ever since leaving Southampton behind as an impactful option up top.
That man was Manolo Gabbiadini, the Italian forward delivering fleeting moments of sublime magic for the Saints to the adoration of the St Mary’s masses.
Gabbiadini’s statistics for Southampton
Joining from Napoli in 2018 after a frosty relationship with ex-head coach Mauricio Sarri ended his stay in Naples – feeling “immediately at ease” in his new surroundings in contrast as quoted by the Mirror – Gabbiadini started his Southampton career in blistering goalscoring form to firmly put his tumultuous spell with the Blues to one side.
The former Southampton number 20 would score an incredible six goals in his first five games, managing to make the tricky transition to the Premier League look easy especially as the Italian was drafted into the first-team set-up mid-way through a season in the January transfer window.
Two of those six goals came at Wembley Stadium, Gabbiadini giving a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led Manchester United an almighty scare in the 2017 EFL Cup final – the Red Devils reigning supreme on the day despite Gabbiadini’s double, winning 3-2 to lift the trophy.
He could’ve even had a hat-trick on the day, but his third strike was controversially ruled offside.
A Premier League player of the month accolade would come his way as a result of his electric start to life in England, but the much-loved Saints figure couldn’t keep this up throughout his time on the South Coast.
The eccentric and unpredictable attacker would leave Southampton with 12 goals to his name from 60 games, leaving a lasting impression on the Saints fanbase before being offloaded by Ralph Hassenhuttl in 2019.
Southampton’s former number 20 has remained a feared forward for opposing defenders to contain since departing, especially when featuring for this new club Al-Nasr in the Middle East.
Gabbiadini’s statistics since leaving Southampton
Gabbiadini would return back to his native Italy after his stint with the Saints, rejoining previous employers Sampdoria for £10.9m.
He would pick up from where he left off in Serie A , adding 31 more goals to his tally at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris Stadium before moving on to Al-Nasr in the wake of the club’s demise to Serie B.
Playing in the UAE Pro League this season, Gabbiadini has scored six goals in all competitions with a further two assists attributed to the 31-year-old from ten outings.
His individual performance versus Hatta in late September showcased the Italian’s explosive game still, scoring a brace on the day to steer his new employers towards a 3-0 victory.
Gabbiadini could have easily had more than just his two strikes, terrorising the Hatta defenders and goalkeeper with shot after shot – peppering the opposing goalkeeper non-stop with six efforts on goal as per Sofascore.
Although Armstrong is now the striker at St Mary’s receiving all the affection, Southampton fans will vividly remember Gabbiadini as a forward presence who shone in patches when the Saints were still in the top flight.