Southampton Fire Sale

There has seldom been such a summer fire sale of footballers on the back of a season of success. Vast player movement on this scale is usually very well known amongst newly promoted or relegated sides, but is a pretty unusual occurrence amongst “stable” clubs, or teams in the ascendency.

Since finishing 8th in the English Premier League last term, Southampton have not only lost their young talented manager, but have also seen five of their best players leave in transfer dealings totaling nearly £90 million. One of their other stars of last year, Morgan Schneiderlin, has taken to social media to voice his displeasure at being forced to stay at St.Mary’s amidst a reported offer from Tottenham, whilst one of his few existing team mates, Jay Rodriguez, is also known to be keen on moving on to the same destination.

A combined transfer fee of £35 million has been mentioned for this duo, a very sizeable and generous amount indeed.

Southampton Fire Sale

Sadly, the wheels were beginning to come off back in January this year, when ex-Chairman Nicola Cortese left the club. This departure and the managerial vacancy at Tottenham led to widespread speculation that Mauricio Pochettino would follow close allay Cortese out of the St Mary’s exit door, a move that would be confirmed when Spurs finally did come calling for the Argentine in May.

Whether or not the Southampton chairman, Ralph Krueger, is now playing hardball to drive up the asking prices of the duo is still unknown – but everybody who follows a “smaller” club knows the drill. Player power will normally always win the day, and once the players’ head has been turned by a bigger club, it’s nigh on impossible to force them to stick to the contract they so eagerly signed back in the day.

I think the real question here is this though. Do the players feel that they can take the club no further, and are they right to chase the dream of turning out for a top four team? Or should they spurn the chance of playing in the Champions League in the vain hope of progressing Southampton even further?

This is not of course the first instance of the Saints selling off their most prized assets. Astonishingly, it is now eight years since this trend began, when a bright eyed, lightning quick winger called Theo Walcott made his way to the bright lights of London, joining Arsenal for a fee that eventually totaled £9.1 million. Of course, we all know how good Walcott is on his day, and at that price, the Gunners got themselves a real snip. Ditto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who cost Arsenal £15 million when he followed in Walcott’s footsteps in 2011. Now recognised as one of England’s finest players, “the Ox” has really taken off in North London, and he looks set to have a very bright future ahead of him for club and country.

Then of course we have the World’s current most expensive footballer. Gareth Bale. Another famed Southampton Academy graduate, who is now a European Champion. Not only does he belt up and down the wing for Real Madrid, he also chips in with a higher than average goal return for an attacking midfielder. But then again, at £85.3 million, I guess you are entitled to expect a few goals for your outlay.

Southampton have known far darker days than these. In April, 2009, they were effectively relegated to the third tier of English football, League One – when handed a ten point deduction for entering administration. This seemed even more unjust in the circumstances, as it was widely believed that the club’s parent company were the culprits – however, as the finances of the two organisations were so heavily linked, they effectively dragged eachother down.

The fact that this proud football club is still in existence now shouldn’t be something that is celebrated, but should be something that is appreciated by all concerned. Two quick promotions ensured that the Saints would be restored to the top flight, and two years in, they have done very well. Success with a blend of astute signings and a real, shiny sprinkling of exciting youth team academy graduates is testament to all behind the scenes at Southampton.

No, it is not nice to sell off the family silver, but the fact that they can now command such astronomical fees for these youngsters is incredible. The Luke Shaw transfer to Manchester United is the obvious “stand-out” deal. £31 million for a 19 year old boy is an astonishing amount of money, no matter if you are United or not.

I guess the sad thing for us football fans of smaller clubs is this. “The beautiful game” is, at the end of the day, a business, and no matter how good the player is, whether he is homegrown or not – he has a price. Historically, there is of course the food chain, the hierarchy, and nothing is going to change that. Have Southampton been victims of their own success? Probably. Or is this just the harsh reality of football and the head ruling the heart on business decisions? Yes.

Southampton will not only survive the exodus, but they will, I am sure, re-build and still be a decent Premier League outfit next year. In Ronald Koeman they possess a very talented young manager, who through the deserved reputation he accrued as a very good Dutch footballer, will be able to attract star names to St Mary’s. Do not doubt that. Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new talent coming into the club.

Will the recent “sell off” continue, and will it affect the Saints’ desire to continue their home growth? The sell-off will end with the probable sales of Schneiderlin and Rodriguez, landing the club with approximately £135 million worth of incoming transfer fees this summer. Even with this sort of capital available, Southampton would be crazy to abandon their philosophy.

 

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