Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has turned to his former club Feyenoord to sign the apparent replacement for Rickie Lambert — the £8million signing of 28-year-old striker Graziano Pellè.
Pellè, who has never been capped for Italy as a full international, has had a decidedly mixed career thus far. Before playing for Feyenoord, he had a series of short stints at Serie A and Serie B clubs, before switching to Louis van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar. He endured four tough, individually unsuccessful years in north Holland, promptly returning to Italy.
But his second stint in the Eredivisie, with Feyenoord, was far more productive. His 27 league goals in 2012/13 made him the all-time top scoring Italian in a foreign league in a single season, surpassing Luca Toni and Christian Vieri.
Pellè, who signed a three-year deal, banged in 55 goals in 66 appearances for the Eredivisie side, after joining the club in August 2012.
On his St Mary’s move, Pellè said “I’m really happy that it’s finally signed. It’s great to be here. This is going to be the best choice for me because the club wants to keep improving every year.”
When asked why he chose Southampton, the Italian responded “[Koeman] and I worked together for two amazing years at Feyenoord, and I hope that it will be the same here.”
So what can Saints fans expect from their new centre-forward?
Koeman described Pellè as “a tall striker with a lot of movement. He’s very dangerous in front of goal.”
It would seem that there’s talent, but also the potential to disappoint. Pellè is probably the type of player that needs to play in a specific set-up, which should bode well for his Premier League career. If there’s anyone who knows how to get the best out of the mercurial Italian, it’s Koeman.
But how will Southampton fans react to this signing?
Some fans, understandably, are unhappy that their established stars are apparently being replaced by relative no-names. But while it may be a natural reaction, Saints fans should keep the faith.
No-one should be under any illusions about the South Coast club’s spending power. After all, the success enjoyed over the last three seasons was built on an excellent scouting network and a world-class academy. Southampton’s big names, like Lallana, Shaw and James Ward-Prowse were products of the youth system, while Lambert, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez were acquired from low-profile clubs.
The one notable departure from this strategy was the signing of Argentine-Italian Dani Osvaldo and we all know how that turned out.
So while this great summer upheaval has left some fans restless, things at Southampton aren’t as precarious as they may seem. The club has clearly been served well by its strong leadership in recent years. There’s no reason to suppose this won’t continue.