SAINTS were incredibly shrewd in January - but the real challenge will come when the summer transfer window opens.

The club could hardly believe their luck when Arsenal came calling for Cedric and offered to pay all his wages.

Cedric was going to become a free agent in the summer, so for the south coast side to end up netting around £5m from the Gunners is a smart move.

And they’ll be hoping for this kind of luck in June.

Outcasts Mario Lemina, Wesley Hoedt, Guido Carrillo, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Fraser Forster will all be returning to the club.

These five players are all high earners at Saints which makes it harder to offload them as a lot of prospective buyers don’t want to shell out that sort of money.

Their loan deals served a purpose this season but there comes a time when you have to cut your losses and move on.

Lemina, for example, cost just over £15m when the St Mary’s hierarchy signed him from Juventus in 2017.

But are they going to recoup what they paid for him? It’s highly unlikely.

There have been reports emerging from the Turkish media that Galatasaray could be interested in making his loan deal permanent, but only if Saints lower their asking price.

And if that means having to swallow their pride to just get him out of the club and off the wage bill, it would make sense.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has built a strong bond with the current squad at his disposal and he won’t want that harmony ruined in the summer.

Hoedt, on the other hand, has questioned how manager Hasenhuttl kept his job after losing to Leicester the way they did.

So, is he a player the Austrian will be desperate to have back? Probably not.

Again, Saints splashed out over £15m for him, and there’s no way Royal Antwerp – the team he is on loan at – will be able to afford to pay that sort of money.

This points towards a return to Staplewood in the summer unless someone else comes in with a deal that would end his time at St Mary’s.

And the same can be said for Forster, Elyounoussi and Carrillo.

If they were all able to leave on permanent deals, Saints would immediately notice a difference with their wage bill.

That can sometimes make the difference between making a deal work and bringing a new addition into the club.

It was hoped last summer that there would be a clear-out, but it didn’t materialise the way supporters and the club would’ve wanted.

But they get to have a second bite of the cherry at the end of this season and it’s even more important they succeed in clearing the decks.

Should they continue their impressive form until May, they will have Premier League safety wrapped up in no time.

Once that’s done, Hasenhuttl can start making his plans for the summer by identifying targets and the club can start looking for buyers to sign the returning loanees.

Saints need a few more Arsenals to come calling if they are to pull this off but it's possible.