Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger has been forced to watch as player after player has skipped St. Mary’s for greener pastures. Sure, there was plenty of money coming back his way — some of it has been reinvested — but no executive wants to witness his club’s best players leaving the team.
He’s had to endure Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren’s moves to Liverpool, Calum Chambers big-money departure for Arsenal and Luke Shaw’s crazy pounds move to Manchester United.
Krueger is calling it a ‘summer of pain’, and it was a necessary evil if you buy what he’s selling.
“It is a summer of pain on many, many different levels. It has been six months of pain because so much change has gone on and people always have fear in change.
“That’s why we have to have patience with the team now because it is not going to come overnight.
“But everything we’re doing is driven by the fact that we want to create a really honest, healthy structure and we want to be as well-run as anybody.”
Krueger believes that forcing players to stay against their wishes — and that could be a hint as to the future of want-aways like Morgan Schneiderlin — is detrimental to the structure he’s trying to bring to Southampton.
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“There was a situation when there was so much change with the manager leaving and you theoretically ended up with a dressing room with half of your starters not really committed to being there,” he said.
“That is an insane risk for any club and especially a club which was already quite thin last year.
“Of actual centrepieces of the club, a few have gone. Not all five were centrepieces or irreplaceable, but you know there were a couple.”
The Saints have brought in promising attacker Graziano Pelle of Feyenoord and Dusan Radic of Twente, while attempting to fill one of the holes in the back with a loan addition of Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand.
Would it have been an insane risk to keep Lovren despite his wishes? I can’t say for sure, but the culture of football seems to dictate that you’re better off cashing in on overvalued English players. Yes, Shaw and Lallana are very strong players, but the money that came back for them could go a long way toward developing more talent.
The real question is whether the players would’ve wanted to skip town if they were in Europa due to a very winnable FA Cup path that Southampton did not take too seriously. But, hindsight is 20/20.