Southampton agreed a deal with Everton to bring in Theo Walcott on a season-long loan on Monday, with the England winger making an emotional return to his boyhood club after nearly 15 years.
Walcott became the youngest player to feature for Southampton when he made his first-team debut in August 2005, at only 16 years and 143 days, and his instant impact at St Mary’s helped him secure a move to Arsenal five months later.
British media reports said several Premier League clubs were interested in signing Walcott, who has struggled for first-team opportunities under Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti.
But the 31-year-old said it was an easy decision to make once Southampton came calling.
“I will probably cry, I bet, when I first play, and it means so much,” Walcott said in a statement.
“Southampton came in for me, it’s part of me and has made me into the player I am. It’s in my heart.
“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.”
Walcott’s arrival adds depth to Southampton’s attacking options as manager Ralph Hasenhuettl looks to build on the club’s 11th-placed league finish last season.
“Theo is someone who has all the qualities to fit well into our team and our style of play,” Hasenhuettl said.
“His experience and influence will also be important for our young players. The idea is not to block their development, but for this to make it faster.”