The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

6 Comments

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?]

source:
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.

source:
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.

source:
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.

MLS attendance up, TV ratings lag as US mulls future

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
1 Comment

NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer’s attendance is up and fan interest is booming, even if television broadcasts are far less popular and some young Americans would rather play in Europe.

[ MORE: Caleb Porter out as Portland Timbers head coach ]

MLS averaged 22,000 in attendance for the first time in its history this season, ranked among the top seven leagues in the world. The league is set to add a second Los Angeles franchise next year, announce two expansion cities next month and at some point finalize David Beckham’s long-pending Miami club.

But viewers averaged under 300,000 for nationally televised regular-season matches, fewer than the average for a New York Yankees game on their regional sports network. Several top young Americans, such as Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, have chosen to forego the MLS to play in Germany and test their mettle in a more demanding environment.

And worst of all, the United States – whose roster was filled with MLS stars – failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances in soccer’s showcase.

“We need to use this failure as a wakeup call for everyone associated with the sport at all levels to ensure that we have the right processes and mechanisms and development programs and leadership and governance in place to learn from this missed opportunity to ensure that it never happens again,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this week. “Part of the maturation of becoming a soccer nation is recognizing that qualifying for the World Cup is not a birthright. It’s something you need to earn, and we are unfortunately in the company of some great soccer nations, like Italy and Holland and Ghana and Chile – Copa champions – that have also not qualified.”

MLS playoffs resume next week after the international break with the first leg of Conference Championships. Columbus – whose owners are threatening to move to Austin, Texas, in 2019 – hosts Toronto, while Houston is home against Seattle.

“MLS and soccer in the United States have made great advances in many areas. But its promoters have found that the abundance of existing legacy sports leagues that have the highest quality of athletes on the planet creates a ceiling on professional soccer in the United States,” said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm SportsCorp. “It has not, and perhaps never, will supplant any of the major legacy sports unless and until the quality of play and players increases significantly and the U.S. men’s team in particular is more competitive and, in fact, wins some of the major international tournaments.”

Momentum of playoff runs was interrupted because of World Cup qualifying, and the culmination of the league’s season competes for attention with the NFL and college football among the wider American sports audience.

“Long-term demographic things like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and stuff with the NFL says maybe there is a long slow decline around some of that, but when you’re starting from where they’re starting, that’s going to take a generation,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We’ll grow because most of the immigration to the U.S. is from soccer-playing countries and the country is going to grow.”

Launched with 10 teams in 1996, two years after the U.S. hosted the World Cup, MLS expanded to 12 but cut back to 10 after the 2001 season. There has been steady growth since expansion started in 2004. Next year’s total will be 23, already well over the norm for a first division, and the league is planning to settle at 28.

Infrastructure could not be more different than in the early days. The league has 14 soccer specific stadiums, two more renovated for the sport and one built with both the NFL and soccer in mind. Three more soccer stadiums are under construction.

Average attendance is up 60 percent from 13,756 in 2000, boosted this year by 48,200 for Atlanta in its opening season. MLS trails only the Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Mexico’s Liga MX, the Chinese Super League and Serie A, with Italy’s first division ahead by only 22,177 to 22,106.

But that has not translated yet into big television ratings.

ESPN averaged 272,000 for 30 telecasts this regular season on ESPN and ESPN2, and Fox averaged 236,000 for 33 broadcasts on FS1 and Fox. In addition, Univision is averaging 250,000 viewers for its Spanish-language MLS telecasts.

But the Premier League attracts a larger audience, averaging 422,000 on NBC, NBCSN and CNBC, even though many matches are on weekend mornings.

“We’re not the Premier League,” Garber said, pointing out last year’s MLS Cup drew 1.4 million viewers on Fox. “The fact that we’re able to generate ratings growth across all of our partners here and in Canada, and dramatic growth in Canada, is a positive. So we actually, we and our partners, feel pretty darn good.”

Player payroll has increased as MLS keeps adding what it calls Targeted Allocation Money. While several older American players have returned to MLS from Europe, many of the teens viewed as the future of the U.S. national team have gone abroad as they emerge from the MLS youth academies, which have been mandated by the league since 2007 and produced more than 250 players with first-team MLS contracts.

Pulisic, at 19 already the leading American star, left Hershey, Pennsylvania, to sign with Borussia Dortmund at age 16, able because of his grandfather’s Croatian citizenship to play in Europe before he turned 18. McKennie left FC Dallas’ academy when he turned 18, signed with Schalke and scored in his U.S. debut this week.

“I didn’t want to become one of those guys that started in MLS and said, man, I wonder if I could have made it to Europe,” McKennie said. “I wanted to spread my wings and see what I could do over here.”

Forward Josh Sargent decided against Sporting Kansas City and is waiting until he turns 18 in February to sign with Werder Bremen.

“I think I’ve just always wanted since I was a little kid to play in Europe,” he said.

Tyler Adams, who also made his U.S. debut this week, played his first MLS game with the New York Red Bulls last year at age 17 and became a regular this season. Garber says “Tyler Adams probably is playing more minutes today for the Red Bulls than he would if he was not in Major League Soccer.”

Adams is happy but thinking ahead.

“Obviously a goal of mine is to play Champions League one day, and obviously the MLS is working its way to becoming one of the top leagues in the world,” he said. “Maybe one day I find myself in Europe. You never know.”

Sometimes big contracts only stall a career. Matt Miazga left the Red Bulls to sign with Chelsea in January 2016, saw little playing time and didn’t get in games regularly until late that autumn during a loan to the Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

“If your only desire is to go to Europe, there are flights leaving every hour on the hour from JFK and LAX and everywhere in between,” said retired American defender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox analyst. “But getting to a place in Europe where you are making good money, where you are playing consistently, where you are learning, where you are valued as a player and as an American player, where you are able to adapt and adjust and live in the other 22 1/2 hours that we often don’t talk about, that’s whole `nother story, and there’s not a lot of flights leaving that have that on the other end.”

With the U.S. soccer community in turmoil following the World Cup failure, some have called for MLS to guarantee playing time for young Americans.

“Our coaches universally believed that that was not the best way to ensure we had the highest-possible product quality to be able to have competitive games and to drive the growth of our fan base,” Garber said.

AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.

Bartra error emphasizes Dortmund’s latest Bundesliga woes

Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic sat out Friday’s 2-1 Dortmund defeat against Stuttgart. Coincidence? Perhaps.

However, the club’s struggles are apparent as Dortmund’s winless run extended to four matches and their gap from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich could be up to nine points by the end of the weekend.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down from Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

BVB was without several of its top talents for the match, including U.S. Men’s National Team star Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it’s Dortmund’s defending that continues to be the side’s biggest issue.

Stuttgart struck after five minutes when Chadrac Akolo broke the deadlock off of an embarrassing blunder by Marc Bartra and the Dortmund defense.

Bartra attempted a routine back pass to goalkeeper Roman Burki during the early moments of the match, but his ball back proved to be way too strong and deflected off of Burki and into the path of Stuttgart forward Akolo (video below).

Dortmund atoned for the former Barcelona man’s mistake just prior to halftime when Maximilian Philipp equalized, but it took just six minutes into the second stanza for Josip Brekalo to restore the Stuttgart advantage.

Moyes: Chicharito could miss two weeks with hamstring strain

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Moyes has given Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez assurances that he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a starting role with the Hammers, but the Mexican international will have to wait a bit for a chance.

[ MORE: North London Derby takes center stage Saturday morning ]

Hernandez, 29, is currently nursing a hamstring strain, leaving his status for this weekend against Watford in doubt.

“I think everyone knows he [Chicharito] has got a hamstring injury,” Moyes said during Friday’s press conference. “It could take a week, it could take two weeks.”

Moyes didn’t mince words recently when speaking about Chicharito and other players within the squad, essentially pointing out that no player will be awarded a starting role simply because of their stardom.

Hernandez has scored four goals in 13 matches this season for West Ham, who currently sits 18th in the Premier League. The Hammers have won just two matches to start the 2017/18 campaign and sit on nine points.

Alessandro Nesta steps down with NASL side Miami FC

Twitter/@LemonCityLive
Leave a comment

Miami FC quickly put itself on the U.S. soccer map in two short seasons, and much of the club’s success can be attributed to manager Alessandro Nesta.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down with Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

The former Serie A defender has managed the club in its first two years of existence, but Nesta’s time in South Beach is coming to an end.

Nesta revealed on Friday that he won’t be returning to the NASL club in 2018, as he prepares to fnd a “new challenge” in his managerial career.

With NASL’s future as a league very much up in the air, Nesta could be seeking a more stable position entering 2018, especially given that his name has been thrown around with several MLS jobs over the last few months.