Nearly 15 years after leaving St. Mary's for Arsenal, Theo Walcott completed an emotional Deadline Day loan move back to the Club he says is "in my heart".
The 31-year-old will join on a season-long deal - for the remainder of 2020/21 - with Everton and Saints both reported to each be covering 50% of his wages.
Walcott became the youngest first-team player ever to feature for the Club when he made his debut in August 2005, at only 16 years and 143 days (a 0-0 draw vs Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Having moved to Arsenal, Theo would go on to play for 12 years at Emirates Stadium, making 397 appearances, scoring 108 goals and twice winning the FA Cup, before signing for Everton in January 2018.
Walcott, who was also part of the Southampton team that reached the 2005 FA Youth Cup final, has also earned 47 caps for England since making his senior international debut at the age of 17, as he went on to become one of the finest graduates ever to emerge from the Saints Academy.
Speaking about his return, Theo said: "I had a few opportunities from other clubs, but as soon as Southampton came in for me, it’s part of me and has made me into the player I am. It’s in my heart.
“I will probably cry, I bet, when I first play, and it means so much. All the people that made it happen, I can’t thank them enough. Honestly, I’m so pleased."
“I was seriously lost for words when Southampton came on the table, and for me it was such an easy decision.
“To get the chance to work with the manager as well and these young players that are coming through, I feel like I’ve made the right choice.”
Its expected that, alongside adding more attacking quality to Ralph Hasenhüttl's side - either on the wing or 'up top' - Walcott will help to nurture and educate some of the younger players coming through at the Club, including the likes of Nathan Tella and Michael Obafemi.
Walcott's signing completed a largely excellent transfer window for Saints with Kyle Walker-Peters, Mohammed Salisu and Ibrahima Diallo all joining as well.
It takes the Club's financial investment to over £35m for the summer.
Alongside the 'ins', Wesley Hoedt, Guido Carrillo and Sofiane Boufal all departed Saints on the final day of the window. Hoedt's move to Lazio being the only 'loan' of the three.
Article by Ben Stanfield
(Photos by Getty Images ("Theo, then....") and Matt Watson, Southampton FC ("Theo, now...."))