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?]
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.
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.
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.