Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has admitted he is ready to belatedly give £12million flop Gaston Ramirez the chance to prove his worth.
Upon promotion back to the Premier League three years ago, Saints spent a lot of time, effort and money bringing the Uruguay international over from Bologna.
Much was expected of the then club-record acquisition, although Ramirez has only showed fleeting glimpses of his undoubted talent during that period.
The attacking midfielder spent last season on loan at relegated Hull and looked set for a summer exit from St Mary’s, with Koeman admitting it looked “very difficult” for him to stay.
Saints had even considered tearing up his deal, as they did with Dani Osvaldo, after failing to shift him before the window closed, although he could now get an unlikely chance to shine in the final season of his deal.
The 24-year-old looked decent off the bench in Wednesday’s 6-0 Capital One Cup mauling of MK Dons – a first appearance for the club in 13 months that Koeman suggests could be followed by more.
“What’s changed? What has changed is we passed the transfer window,” the Dutchman said.
“We had some injuries with some players and I gave some players a rest.
“Of course, normally, it is a possibility to take one of the strikers from the under-21s, but they played on Monday for 90 minutes.
“He is part of the team, he is training well, his behaviour is positive. I’m the first to give that kind of player a chance when we need somebody.
“(Injuries are) one of the big problems for Gaston.
“I spoke to him before starting the pre-season and for the first time he had a normal holiday.
“And after seven or eight days of the pre-season, he got an injury and lost three weeks in the pre-season. Then you know it is difficult.
“Still, he isn’t the first choice on the position in front, but I know his qualities.
“He is technically a very good player and if he is physically on level, yeah, why not? Why not? It’s competition.
“It’s all about your performance during the whole week and if you get the opportunity to play show your qualities.”
Koeman believes oft-injured Ramirez has to be 100 per cent physically to perform in a league which sometimes proves “too physical” for the South American.
A lack of on-field discipline has also frustrated the Saints boss, although he spotted a few positive signs in Milton Keynes.
“He is a player who likes to take freedom on the pitch,” Koeman said.
“I say always to the players take freedom out of your position. What he did yesterday was different than sometimes when he played (as he played with discipline).
“He played more from the right and then he can go in. That’s the freedom that every attacker, every forward, needs.
“But, in my opinion, he took too much freedom and then it is difficult for your organisation in the team.”