From the bench to the field, Southampton has been liquidated this summer, but now that Ronald Koeman is in charge at St. Marys, he would like the bleeding to stop. And the first wound to staunch: Dejan Lovren, and the defender’s potential move to Liverpool.
Koeman, a fine defender in his own right, has spoken out against the Croatian’s potential transfer, one that’s become contentious as the 25-year-old has spoken out in favor of the move. With Saints having already lost Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert, Luke Shaw, and former manager Mauricio Pochettino since the end of the season, Koeman is attempted to draw a line with Lovren, who joined Saints from Lyon a year ago.
According to the Dutch coach’s Saturday comments, he’s made his views known to club management, though the decision ultimately rests with the board.
“I spoke to Les Reed [Southampton’s director of football] and two times to Dejan,” Koeman said. “He was very clear. I said I want to keep Dejan in the team. I respect all the meanings but we have to do what the best is for the club.
“He has a contract, he has to come back this Sunday but I don’t know what will happen after this. First of all we like to keep all that info in the club, not the press. That was not a good thing of his side …
“I hope he will come back …Four or five days ago he said it’s a difficult situation and he will have another talk to the club and his agent but he knows he has to come back because he is still a player of Southampton.”
Lovren has been the subject of a $30 million bid from Liverpool, one that was rejected by Southampton. The central defender responded by saying his head was already with the Reds, condemning the club for blocking his move.
It’s tempting to say Southampton have to draw a line somewhere, but they really don’t. If Lallana, Lambert, and Shaw are done, there’s no reason Lovren can’t go, too. The team is clearly rebuilding, and as it proved last summer when it lured Lovren from France, they’re capable of finding quality in the transfer market.
For Koeman, however, that’s beside the point. If he’s overruled from above, fine, but as the manager at Southampton, Koeman’s supposed to have a tight grip:
“But as a manager of Southampton I have to do everything to keep the best players. Again the final decision is of the board of the club.”
Again, to what end? Is Lovren’s value likely to increase dramatically in the future? At this point, no. He’s also unlikely to become a lifer on the south coast. If Lovren is going to move eventually, why not now, particularly in a season where rebuilding, not competing for Europe, is the main goal.
Maybe Koeman is worried about being dragged toward a relegation battle? That’s the only scenario where losing Lovren’s quality’s would make a meaningful difference, though with $30 million, a club as smart as Saints can surely avoid that challenge.
More likely: Koeman’s just saying manager things, trying to keep others from raiding his squad. Unfortunately for him, the raid started well before his arrival. There’s no use trying to reverse this tide. Instead, best to accept the money and start planning for the future.