RALPH Hasenhuttl revealed Oriol Romeu could be set for a surprise return to action before the end of the season, insisting: “He is burning for returning.”

The Spaniard has not featured since a 3-0 defeat against Leeds United at Elland Road in February, where he suffered a fractured ankle. Romeu underwent surgery to repair the problem.

Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “Oriol Romeu’s season is over. He has surgery, it means three months out. He has a fracture on his ankle and definitely the season is over for him. It will take a minimum of three months until he is back.”

However, the 29-year-old has made a remarkable recovery and this week returned to the training pitches. While Romeu has not yet integrated back into full team sessions, there is a chance the Ulldecona-born ace could feature for Saints before the Premier League season ends on May 23.

Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “Yes, it can be possible. It would be surprising for us also, but the recovery was quite good and the surgery was quite good I think. We have to decide if we want to take the risk now or if we leave him out until the end of the season and then give him more time to prepare over the summer. But I think he is burning for returning and let’s have a look how much we can step the brake or if we let him go.”

Since Romeu’s injury, Saints have lost six of their nine fixtures, with Ibrahima Diallo and Stuart Armstrong slotting in alongside James Ward-Prowse in midfield. The club’s only other senior central midfielder Will Smallbone is also currently ruled out with a knee injury. Asked how tough it had been to replace the qualities missing by Romeu’s absence in recent months,

Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “He is an unbelievably important player for our game. There is no doubt. This is for sure. He is an important player for Prowsey also because with him on his side, I think he feels a little bit more comfortable because he is more the guy who takes the balls and who has the good decisions then to play deep. At the moment we play either with Ibra or with Stuey there. They are a little bit different players, they have other qualities. So it gives us, when he (Romeu) is coming back, definitely a new option and especially with and against the ball he has some big qualities we need.”

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