When a sports team sells off five key players in the offseason, chances are that they will almost certainly regress heading into the new season. This, however, may not be the case with Southampton. Yes, it is extremely difficult to lose nearly half of your starting XI, especially when they are quality players such as Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Calum Chambers; however, the Saints did an outstanding job reinvesting money into new players during the transfer window.
Southampton reportedly received over $150 million on the five aforementioned players (nearly $85 million for Lallana and Shaw alone). For a team that played in the third-tier League One just four seasons ago, when you get a chance at $150 million, you undoubtedly take it. Of course there were furious knee-jerk reactions by some fans and players (notably Morgan Schneiderlin) about their team selling a chunk of their star players, but with patience and chairman Ralph Krueger and manager Ronald Koeman putting money back into the team, the Saints now look like a fairly strong team again.
Krueger and Koeman essentially replaced the outgoing Lambert with duo Shane Long and Graziano Pellè. Long, a Barclays Premier League veteran, scored four goals in 15 league matches with Hull City last season. The Republic of Ireland international cost Southampton around $19.5 million, and while the Saints probably overpaid for Long, the 27-year-old striker is a decent option to have up front. Though Pellè might not be a household name (even at the age of 29), the Italian brings an impressive goal scoring record to the south coast. Pellè scored 50 goals in 57 league matches for Feyenoord over the last 2 seasons in Rotterdam.
Although losing highly-rated young defenders Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers is certainly a blow, 23-year-old Nathaniel Clyne (yet another potential star defender for the Saints) will man the right back position, while Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand should receive plenty of playing time at Shaw’s vacant left back position. Shaw headed to Manchester United in a $44 million move (the most expensive teenager in British soccer history), while Chambers transferred to Arsenal for a fee of around $26 million.
Perhaps Southampton’s best two pieces of business during the transfer window was the purchase of Dušan Tadić ($17.7 million) from FC Twente and bringing in Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid on loan to cover for the Liverpool-bound duo Lallana and Lovren. Tadić appears to be the perfect replacement for Lallana. The 25-year-old is talented, underrated, and entering his prime. The Serbia international scored 16 goals in 33 league matches with FC Twente (Eredivisie) last season.
Alderweireld, while they only secured him on loan, is a massive “get” for Southampton. The versatile defender (can play at center back and right back) is already extremely experienced, as his teams (first Ajax, then Atletico Madrid) have won league titles in four consecutive seasons. The Belgium international was also reportedly wanted by Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Along with replacing the talented quintet, the Saints also brought in goalkeeper Fraser Forster, center back/defensive midfielder Florin Gardos, and midfielder/winger Sadio Mané for a combined $45.2 million. Forster, an England international, holds the record for most consecutive clean sheets for Scottish giants Celtic (13) and has also collected the most clean sheets in the Scottish Premier League four straight years.
Gardos is a towering 6’ 4 ½” versatile Romania international, while Mané is a very interesting acquisition in the midfielder/winger position. Mané, who was brought in on transfer deadline day, is a 22-year-old Senegal international. The midfielder scored 45 goals in just 87 total matches with Red Bull Salzburg over the last 2+ seasons.
While some pundits/fans had Southampton in a relegation battle this season because of the five player sales (for the record I picked Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Leicester City to be sent back to the Championship following the season), the team from the south coast is still a formidable squad. With the quality additions to the team, the players that made it through the transfer market without leaving the club (Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, and the injured Jay Rodriguez), and still having roughly $50 million leftover, this Southampton team could very well still finish inside the top 10 of the Premier League for the 2014-15 season.
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