One spot down; two to go, for now. With rumors José Fonte may yet move from Southampton, Ronald Koeman may have more work than that to rebuild Saints’ back line. Today, however, the acquisition of Ryan Bertrand moves last year’s eighth place finishers one step closer to being ready for its season opener.
The news was announced today on the club’s website, with Chelsea agreeing to send the 24-year-old defender on his seventh loan. The year-long deal gives Southampton another season to identify a long-term replacement for the departed Luke Shaw, while the Blues find a place to get their left back playing time while Felipe Luís and César Azpilicueta hold down the position at the parent club.
Koeman, from Southampton’s web site:
“He is a top player who will bring a lot of quality to the team. He has experience at the highest level and is an exciting, attacking player, which is what I like to see in my full-backs.
“I’ve been very impressed with how Matt Targett is doing in pre-season, but he is still young and developing, which I am sure he will continue to do over the coming seasons.
“Left-back is an important position in the team because it is quite specialised in terms of the attributes needed to play there, so it is nice to get this signing completed because it gives us some stability.”
For Bertrand, it’s his second loan spell this year, having joined Aston Villa in January for the second half of the 2013-14 Premier League season. The move to Birmingham was his first loan since 2010, when he spent five months at Nottingham Forest. The two-time England international has also played with Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, and Reading since joining Chelsea in July 2005.
According to Reuters, the loan deal includes a $17 million option to buy, should Saints want to purchase the player at the end of the season.
From Bertrand, again on Southampton’s web site:
“For me personally, this is another chance to play and a chance to join a fantastic club that’s moving in the right direction.
“With the set-up the club’s got, the manager it has coming in and the ethos it has, I thought this was a perfect match.
“The manager’s name speaks for itself, so to play under somebody like that will be good for me. His ethos and the way he plays matches my game.
“I had a lot of options and a lot of interest but, having met the people and spoken to the manager and seen what the club is about, in my mind this was the perfect decision.
It’s a reminder that, despite this summer’s fire sale, Southampton still have a few things going for the club. Its reputation for developing players is as good as any club in England, while the regard Koeman carries from his experience with Ajax, PSV, Barcelona, and the Dutch national team can make a difference while convincing young players to spend time on the south coast.
Those qualities will have to be leveraged to the fullest to restock Southampton’s depleted squad, but beginning with Bertrand’s loan, Saints have taken step one. Unfortunately, there are a number of steps to go.