The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

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10 players have left Southampton this summer. Only two have arrived. The most damaging fire sale in the history of the Premier League continues. One of the most confusing things about it all is that the club isn’t broke, yet players keep leaving.

Rickie Lambert. Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have all joined Liverpool. 18-year-old Luke Shaw has joined Manchester United and now teenager Calum Chambers has signed for Arsenal. While Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin may soon be on the way to either Liverpool or Tottenham Hostpur.

[RELATED: Which players will leave?]

Those five players already sold have left for a combined fee of around $170 million in transfer fees. Three of them (Lallana, Shaw, Chambers) were academy products who cost Saints nothing, while Lambert was sold for five times the amount Saints paid for him in 2009 and Lovren was sold at a profit of $20 million after one season with Saints.

Financially all of these moves make sense but what is going on to the team who finished eighth in the Premier League last season, excited neutrals with their impressive attacking soccer but are now being dismantled easier than a giant Jenga tower?

Let’s break this thing down as Southampton’s brightest talent continues to be ruthlessly plucked away by the PL’s top teams. Will the show go on or was their best ever season in the PL last term just the beginning of the end for Saints?

Changes at the top, financial balance

When Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese left Saints in January, alarm bells rang around the South Coast city as to the future of the club. In 2009 they were in the third-tier, bottom of the league with a 10 point deduction after going into administration. Swiss Billionaire Markus Liebherr then arrived at the last minute to save them, as Cortese brokered the deal and ran the club for his wealthy friend. Liebherr sadly passed away in 2010 and Cortese has run the club for the Liebherr family ever since. Until January, anyway. Then Libeherr’s daughter Katharina wanted more of a say, Cortese walked out and now a former NHL manager, Ralph Krueger, is in charge at St. Mary’s as Chairman with Katharina overseeing things. New board members from Austria have since spoken been appointed and have spoken about “balancing the books” and not repeating previous frivolous spending from the past regime.

[RELATED: Rodriguez, Schneiderlin leaving next?]

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Shaw, 19, became the most expensive teenager in history when he left Saints for Man United this summer.

The incredible new training facility in a national park near Southampton has finally been finished at a cost upwards of $50 million, with some feeling these players were sold to fund the stunning facility that homes Southampton’s world-renowned academy. The cost of balancing the books could see Saints turn from top six contenders to relegation battlers this season, but repeatedly their Head of Football Development, Les Reed, has stated players don’t need to be sold… but it keeps happening.

New manager, new faces

Mauricio Pochettino walked out on Saints at the end of last season to join Tottenham Hotspur. He had come in and turned Saints into a team who were punching well above their weight and challenging for a top six spot for most of the 2013-14 season. Last year was just their second campaign back in the Premier League after winning back-to-back promotions from League One. Pochettino saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship to Spurs, with Dutchman Ronald Koeman coming in to steer Saints in the right direction. The worst part is, the exodus may not be over as Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin could both be heading out this summer for another $60 million combined.

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Saints’ owner Katharina Liebherr, left, has appointed Canadian Ralph Krueger as the man to take the ambitious PL club forward.

The deals for Lambert, Lallana and Shaw were done without Koeman having any input, while Lovren and Chambers have since departed. The former Ajax and Barcelona star has a huge job on his hands to keep churning out top talent from the academy to replace the players he has lost, but he has signed Italian striker Graziano Pelle and Serbian playmaker Dusan Tadic to help stop the bleeding. For now. When Saints line up against Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season on August 17, expect to recognize more of their old players starting for Liverpool than for the South Coast club.

The ceiling for Saints

Southampton, despite the rumblings about funding being cut back from their Billionaire owners, didn’t actually need to sell any players this summer. Why have they then? Simply put, the players want to leave. With Pochettino’s project over and changes at boardroom level, the likes of Lallana and Lambert saw the window of opportunity to depart. Let’s face facts here. Southampton massively overachieved last season as they regularly fielded at least six players under the ages of 24 in their starting lineup. They finished in eighth spot and realistically they can finish no higher. The seven teams above them have huge budgets and can splash the cash whenever they want. Saints, in theory, have that money to spend via their owners but are going for a sustainable model which will see them become a solid PL team that banks the cash from the massive TV deals, sponsorship and other financial benefits every season. In truth whether they finish 15th or 8th in the PL each season, it makes no difference. They are a feeder club and are accepting their status. That will disappoint fans but it is the truth.

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Lallana, Shaw, Lambert, Lovren, Chambers… all five left Saints this summer.

The future

Right now it’s up in the air as to how Southampton will lineup under new boss Ronald Koeman next season. The likelihood is two or three new players will be signed by the end of August but a sprinkling of new academy products will also make the step up. Saints fans, don’t despair. Here are a few names to get excited about, as the forward-thinking club continue to churn out top young talent at the envy of clubs across the world.

However with the way things are going at Saints, if these three academy products listed below have good seasons in 2014-15 then they will be on the way to a top four team in the Premier League. The cycle continues. So, fans everywhere, keep an eye on these young studs.

  • Sam Gallagher: started and scored in the PL last season at the age of 18. Towering center forward who represents the England U-19 side alongside plenty of his Saints teammates.
  • Harrison Reed: you don’t get dubbed ‘the new Paul Scholes’ if you haven’t got talent. Reed, 19, signed a new four-year deal this week and the diminutive ginger midfielder is an England youth international who sprays the ball about majestically. Prospect.
  • Matt Targett: so, after selling Luke Shaw it’s not all doom and gloom. Targett is another England youth international who was arguably neck and neck with Shaw for a few years as they progressed through the academy. Expect him to start at left back.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.

Dele Alli banned three European games for straight red card

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Spurs may be out of the Europa League this season, but should they end up qualifying for the Champions League next season, they will start the campaign short-handed.

Tottenham will be without midfielder Dele Alli for the first half of the group stage after his horrifying tackle on Brecht Dejaegere of KAA Gent in their 2-2 draw which saw Spurs out of the competition on aggregate in the Round of 32.

Alli went to ground on the 39th-minute challenge, and made contact on high up on Dejaegere’s leg with both his studs, finishing with a scissior-whip motion. It was a blatant red card, and now UEFA’s disciplinary committee has handed down the three-match ban. Straight-red cards for violent conduct only carry a minimum penalty of one match in UEFA tournament play, but the disciplinary committee clearly thought a longer punishment was necessary, with the ability to sentence anyone up to five matches.

The straight red was the first of Alli’s professional career. Alli apologized to Dejaejere after the match, according to the Gent midfielder. He’s since scored in four straight matches, and when asked on Sunday if that moment was still in his mind, he said, “I’m never going to say sorry for wanting to win or trying as hard as I can but things happen and you have to learn from them.”

Spurs currently sit in second place in the Premier League table with 59 points and look to be in a strong position for Champions League qualification, with a seven-point cushion on fifth-placed Manchester United.