Southampton….a Premier League selling club?
It’s a question many Southampton fans have asked for a few years: ‘Why do we sell all of our best players?”
This is a club who has not only sold many a good player, they’ve often lost their Manager. Yet the club continue to get better, or at least so it seems. Promotion to the top flight was last achieved in 2012; not long after dropping down to League One and going through a very rocky couple of years.
Southampton’s 1st season back in the Premier League in 2012/13 saw them finish 14th and clear of relegation. They then set a new club record for number of points achieved finishing 8th with a very decent 56 points in 2013/14. 2014/15 saw a 7th place finish with 60 points and in 2015/16, they finished 6th with 63 points. Good going, eh?
Last season wasn’t quite the same excitement despite reaching the EFL Cup final. They still finished 8th, but 15 points behind Everton, and 23 points below where they finished last season.
So, what’s the reason? Well the top clubs have all finished in the top 6 or 7 places which is unusual. But it’s the recent dealings that have bugged Matt Le Tissier and co as they have lost a fair few players, usually to other Premiership clubs. So, let’s go back!
2013-14 was their 2nd season back in the Premier League and after finishing 14th the year before, they needed investment. Then Manager Mauricio Pochettino signed Victor Wanyama for £12 million, Dejan Lovren for £8 million & Dani Osvaldo for £12 million and the Saints didn’t really sell anyone. This led to a record 8th place finish. But then came the surprises...
2014/15 saw Lovren shipped out, 12 months on to Liverpool for £22 million (a £14 million-pound profit) and teammate Adam Lallana joined him at Anfield for £26 million. These things unfortunately come in three’s as fans favourite Rickie Lambert also moved to The Reds for £4 million. Calum Chambers joined Arsenal for £14 million & youngster Luke Shaw was sold to Manchester United for £31 million. Total transfer income was around £100 million. To be fair, they did spend around £70 million which included the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane but it can’t have been nice to lose all those players?
2015/16 season saw more departures with Morgan Schneiderlin joining Man Utd for £30 million after a brilliant 7 years. Nathaniel Clyne becoming the 4th player of recent times to go Liverpool for £15 million and Dani Osvaldo leaving on a free to go Porto after an unsuccessful spell with the club and out on loan. Income spending pretty much matched outgoing spending that season as a few new faces came in including Virgil van Dijk for £13 million but again losing such players proved a blow.
And then there was last season wasn’t there? Out went Sadio Mane, again to Liverpool (or should we call them Saints Stars?) for £35 million. He had done well for 2 seasons and the club made a £20 million profit on him. Pelle went again just 2 seasons after joining for a £3 million profit and Juanmi left after just 12 months, making a small loss on him.
What really hurt this time was Victor Wanyama joining former manager Mauricio Pochettino for £12 million, the same fee he had been signed for 3 seasons ago from Celtic. Mauricio was thrilled to get his man, as he had brought the Kenyan to the Premier League but had only got 1 season out of him before he jumped ship to manage Spurs. Money was spent on a few players including Sofiane Boufal (£15-21 million) who has struggled for form, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg (£13 million) & Nathan Redmond (12 million) but it didn’t make up for the players lost hence the 46 points and 8th place finish.
So, what happens this summer? Well first who is going to be in charge? French coach Claude Puel has struggled a little and reports suggest that the former Nice manager could see his contract terminated early this summer. But, 10 managers in just under 10 years isn’t good, so do they want to lose another one? Losing Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham and Ronald Koeman to Everton doesn’t give you too much optimism that the managers have faith in the board, does it?
Their bank balance must look good though: Southampton have recorded annual profits in each transfer window; £30.6m in 2014/15, £400,000 in 2015/16 and a reported profit of £20 million so far in 2016/17.
Chairman Ralph Kruege had told the Telegraph in February that “We would like to keep this group together. “We don’t want to do what we did in the last three summers every year. We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.”
Yet, what stories are we hearing today? Ryan Bertrand is apparently close to joining Man City after just 3 seasons. Dusan Tadic is being linked with a move to Italy and Virgil van Dijk wants out just 2 seasons after signing from Celtic, granted for what sounds like a huge profit.
The Southampton board will talk about the success of the supposed ‘Moneyball thesis’ i.e. making profit on young players and reinvesting in the squad, although they probably won’t call it this. Their development of the club suggests that a strong plan is in place and should act as a guide for other lower tier clubs. Owner Katharina Liebher will believe it’s further enhanced after reaching this year’s EFL Cup, even though they lost to Manchester United.
However, how does the song go? One step forward, two steps back, and after going from 6th to 8th, it sounds about, right. What a team they could have if it kept their players together, especially as the likes of Bale, Shaw and Chambers have come through the youth system. However, after a slightly disappointing season, they’ll want to end the 41-year wait for major silverware, but they’ve also got to be careful that they don’t end up more than just 2 steps back!