Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has said Mohammed Salisu is “the future” of the Saints as the defender continues to wait for his debut.
The Ghanaian centre-half was signed from Real Valladolid for £10.9million back in August but is yet to play a minute for the St Mary’s side this season.
Salisu has been a regular in full-contact first-team training sessions and has been named on the bench during the club’s last five Premier League games.
Hasenhuttl was forced to change his centre-back pairing of Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard ahead of Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Fulham – with the latter out with a knee injury.
But the Austrian opted to recall Jack Stephens for the contest instead of handing 21-year-old Salisu his debut.
Asked when Salisu, who has been an unused substitute on five occasions for Saints, would get his chance, Hasenhuttl said: “Sali is the future of the club and this will take time.
“We know how long other players needed to step into the team and how long it takes.
“But he has so much potential and I think on Saturday it was important for me, as I said, to not bring him in because the team is not really settled and it would be too difficult I think.
“But at the moment we are calm, I am happy he’s here and he shows with every session that he can help us.”
Stephens is expected to keep his place when Saints host West Ham in the Premier League on Tuesday (6pm).