TWO days before Saints were beaten by Everton in November, Cedric had conducted an interview stating his intention to leave the club this summer.

The Portuguese defender will be out of contract at the end of this season and took the opportunity to have his say on the matter.

Given Saints were in the midst of an awful run back then, it wasn’t well-received by the St Mary’s faithful.

He went on to start that match against the Toffees but was hauled off at half time by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

But since that moment, Cedric has been a mainstay of the Saints defence that has helped move the club away from the relegation zone.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, the 28-year-old admits the timing of his interview wasn’t ideal but felt his comments were taken out of context.

“I don’t have a contract and it’s obvious when you don’t have a contract you can’t stay even if you want to,” explained Cedric.

“I can say that the timing was difficult but also when you take things out of context it can sound bad.

“I was running out of contract and I made it clear that my main focus has stayed the same: it’s to help the team.

“I want to help achieve our goal of staying in the Premier League.

“I am completely focused on helping the team, so I won’t change that. This is definitely the most important thing.”

It would be fair to say that Cedric and Hasenhuttl’s relationship didn’t get off to the best of starts in December 2018.

The Austrian had just inherited a team that was languishing at the wrong end of the table and looked destined for the Championship.

And one of the first things Hasenhuttl did was drop Cedric and bring in youngster Yan Valery to take his place on the right side of Saints’ defence.

This eventually led to the UEFA Euro 2016 winner being the first player to leave on loan when the January transfer window opened.

Cedric joined Italian outfit Inter Milan until the end of the season and made nine appearances for them before returning to Saints in the summer.

Asked if his relationship with Hasenhuttl got off to a rocky start, Cedric responded: “We were coming from a not so good period as a team and also the year before was not so easy.

“I was here always very positive and was one of the most experienced players and I kept on fighting and we achieved the goal of staying in the Premier League.

“And then last year we were going through the same process and it was quite difficult. I take things very personally and when we don’t win I’m not happy.

“We had a lot of bad results and you obviously get upset with this and there was a moment when after a few weeks of Ralph coming in I had an offer to go to Italy.

“They are a very, very big club and I decided to go.

“It was a good experience for me, but I knew Southampton would be fine because I saw the method, how we were working and the way we were reacting in the games.”

Having been at Saints since 2015, Cedric caught the final season under Ronald Koeman where they finished sixth in the Premier League and just three points off the Champions League places.

This was followed by spells playing for Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino, Mark Hughes and then Hasenhuttl.

Due to the post-Koeman years being more of a struggle, it was put to Cedric whether he saw the opportunity to join Inter Milan as a chance to flee a team fighting at the wrong end of the table.

“I didn’t look at it like this. I looked at the experience. It’s a big club and it was a new experience,” explained the right-back.

“It’s completely different football because it’s a team that has a lot more of the possession and fights for the top-three/top-four.

“It’s a completely different Championship and I also had Joao Mario there, a Portuguese player, and it was something that was important for my career.

“It made me a better footballer and I didn’t look at it as a break.

“I came back, and I am adapted to the Premier League and everyone here – we are like a family.

“It was important to grow up to go through this new experience.”

When Cedric returned to Saints, he was given another chance by Hasenhuttl to prove himself.

Because of this, the defender believes the duo’s relationship is getting better as the season goes on: “I think it’s good.

“I respect him a lot as a coach and I think he has a good relationship with me and respects me as a player, a professional and a human being.

“It has been getting better, I think, with time because we are getting to know each other better and he is getting to know me as a footballer better as well.

“I always have a point to prove because when you don’t have one something is wrong.

“When you don’t have a point to prove is when you lose focus, and this is very important.

“All my career, national team, everywhere you have a point to prove and you need the highest standards.

“You always have someone that wants to take your place, and this is something very, very normal in football and it also makes you get better as well.

“When I came back I faced it like normal competition between the two players and when you get your opportunity you have to do your best for the team.

“This is what I tried to do: fight, be professional, work hard and take the opportunity when it comes.

“You are human and make mistakes, but the important thing is that you are prepared and take responsibility on the pitch by being a strong personality and taking risks when it’s necessary.”

Off the pitch, it could be said that Cedric is a misunderstood character.

Born in Germany, before moving to Portugal at a young age, the defender is fluent in five languages: German, Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian.

His ability to be multi-lingual is akin to the methodical approach in which he chooses to live his life.

When he started his professional career at Sporting Lisbon, he set himself a set of rules that he still abides by today.

These include punctuality, knowing how much sleep he needs to perform better in training, his diet and a host of other commandments.

Previously residing in Southampton’s fashionable Ocean Village, Cedric has opted for a quieter life in Winchester with his wife.

He lives near Saints teammates and close friends Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jan Bednarek – the players he has a strong bond with in the dressing room.

Reflecting on a new perspective on life, Cedric said: “I got married in the summer, it was lovely and an amazing day.

“I think everything in life is a balance: you need time for your family, time for your friends, time to go out and time to stay out.

“Finding the right balance is super important and thank God I have an amazing family helping me with this.

“I have a few rules I have stuck to throughout my career which has been so important: timings of sleep, the time I need to be home and things like that.

“I never wanted my mother calling me when I was younger to see where I was.

“These are things every footballer should have, and if they don’t do it, it must be pure talent because I have to have these things in my life and I always have.”

His ability to speak five languages, he says, is down to a natural curiosity of life.
Cedric added: “Sat here with you, I am curious about your job. I am curious about everything that happens in life.

“When I moved to Italy, one of the first things I wanted to do was have Italian lessons.

“This was so important to me because when you move to a different country you have to adapt to their culture without losing yours.

“It’s the same in football: you need to adapt to everyone without losing what brought you here in the first place.”

Cedric comes across as someone who likes to be in control.

So, for him to be entering the final months of his Saints contract without a new one on the table should be a prospect that frightens him.

But, for once, he is taking a back seat and not giving it too much through.

“I used to be very like nervous when I’m not in control, but I have been changing it and I think I am in a good way now,” reflected Cedric.

“I’m not thinking about it because it’s not the most important thing right now.

“Joao Mario told me this, ‘Only focus on what you can control because there is some stuff that you can’t control’.

“I can control how I train and play, so that’s what I’m completely focused on.

“I am really passionate: I don’t care if I have 10 years left on a contract or six months left on a contract.”

Asked whether he could stay in the Premier League when his time at Saints ends next summer, he didn’t rule it out.

“This is a question that I don’t even know,” he continued.

“I really like the Premier League. I like the country and I am adapted here.

“But then I also had a really good experience in Italy, so I don’t know.”