What The Hell Is Going On With Southampton?
Southampton FC was valued at £57.5m just 18 months ago. Perhaps Liverpool, having signed three of their players for a total of almost £50 million, might have been better off just buying the entire south coast club.
To be fair to Brendan Rodgers’ club, they’re not the only side taking advantage of the apparent turmoil at St. Mary’s, in an unprecedented removal of the spine of a club’s first team in such a short period of time.
Liverpool’s capture of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert, allied with Calum Chambers’ move to Arsenal, Luke Shaw’s to Manchester United and the reportedly imminent departure of Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin to Spurs mean that players with 213 Premier League starts between them will have left the club since they finished in a commendable eighth position in May.
The players remaining at the club totaled 207 starts in the league last term – with at least one of those, Dani Osvaldo – also certain to leave.
There is a temptation to ask “where did it all go wrong?” with The Saints but, like the time George Best was asked the same question when lying on a bed with a former Miss World surrounded by banknotes, perhaps it’s not all doom-and-gloom. The club may have sold, or are about to sell, several of their best players but they’ve received top dollar for all of them.
Could any club turn down £27 milion for an 18-year-old left-back? Or £16 million for a 19-year-old defender who’s shared right-back duties with Nathaniel Clyne? Five million quid more for Adam Lallana than Bayern Munich got for Toni Kroos?
What is critical now is that the much-criticised owner Katharina Liebherr proves this transfer window is not just an asset stripping exercise, before the eventual sale of the club, and re-invest in the first team. Should Rodriguez and Schneiderlin join their former manager at White Hart Lane, the Saints will have received well over £100 million in transfer sales this summer.
New boss Ronald Koeman has so far reinvested just under £20 million of that on Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic as replacements for Lambert and Lallana respectively, but now needs to be backed in strengthening at least half a dozen further positions.
There are often high levels of player turnover following a relegation or regime change, the only surprise is that it’s happened to a club coming off the back of a very successful season. If one were to pinpoint a pivotal moment in Southampton’s current malaise, then former executive chairman Nicola Cortese’s departure in January was critical. It was clear from that moment that Mauricio Pochettino’s “project” was dead, his future at the club short-term and that the side he’d helped build would be vulnerable to vultures.
Koeman worked wonders with a young side on a shoe-string budget at Feyenoord but surely he hadn’t signed up to this level of turmoil.
There are rumours about his unhappiness at the situation and his tweet yesterday about an empty training ground, whether in jest or unintended, symbolises Southampton’s current position.
It would be no surprise if the manager were to join the exodus as the Saints will have to perform miracles with their current squad to retain their Premier League status.