When it was announced that Toby Alderweireld’s loan spell at Southampton wasn’t to be made permanent; after the Atlético centre-back made the move to Tottenham, it was a big blow to Ronald Koeman. The Belgian signed on transfer deadline day for the season after failing to break into the reigning Spanish champions’ side, but Alderweireld was superb. Helping Koeman’s new-look Saints side to the second best defensive record in the league, he had become a fans’ favourite. Yet, as the former Ajax defender has gone onto impress at White Hart Lane alongside compatriot Jan Vertonghen, his replacement at St Mary’s has meant that Southampton haven’t been left with an Alderweireld-sized gap at the back.
Coming through the much-vaunted Groningen academy that Ronald and Erwin Koeman had been trained at in their youth, Virgil Van Dijk was always someone that was very familiar to the Saints’ manager and his number two. Another reason that the former Feyenoord manager kept an eye on Van Dijk is because he is incredibly similar in style to Koeman. A centre-half comfortable with bringing the ball out from back, the 6’4” Dutchman is a threat from set pieces; whether in the air or from striking a dead-ball himself.
Arriving in Scotland from Groningen for a bargain £2.6m in 2013, the then-21 year old became a fans’ favourite. As Southampton had just bought Victor Wanyama from the Glasgow giants and would later sign Bhoys keeper Fraser Forster, it was inevitable that Van Dijk would catch the eye of impressed scouts. It was alleged that Koeman wanted his compatriot when he stepped in the door at the Staplewood complex in the summer of 2014, but after signing Forster for around £10 million, the Celtic hierarchy were averse to the idea of losing another of their key players.
However, with the Scottish champions failing to qualify for the Champions League group stage this season, Van Dijk was soon on his way to Southampton. His debut away at West Brom showcased his ability – the game may have ended 0-0, but the Dutchman looked every inch a perfect replacement for Alderweireld.
The former Groningen man has been as steady as a rock in what has been a season of inconsistency for Southampton. Whether it has been Forster or Maarten Stekelenburg behind him, part of a three-man or four-man back-line, Van Dijk has been superb, even showing in the 2-1 away win at Stoke that he could lead the defence without captain Jose Fonte at his side.
After making the step-up to the Premier League with relative ease, becoming a regular for the Netherlands is the next step and Van Dijk’s emergence could not have come at a better time for the Oranje. The Dutch national team lacks a real top class centre-back, and the Southampton man could be just the defender that is needed. The only slight concern in his game when he arrived was the occasional lapse of concentration, but Van Dijk has admitted that since arriving on the South Coast that he has improved in that aspect.
It is inevitable that with good displays for Saints that the vultures will circle again, and the centre-back is certainly likely to be one of many looked at. In an era when bringing the ball out from the back is a real desire, Van Dijk is certain to be someone who is highly treasured. Whilst he is not likely to move this summer, 2017’s main transfer window may be a completely different story unless Saints can somehow break into the Champions League.
Southampton would certainly make a profit on the £11.5m shelled out to get his signature, if that was to be the case. Van Dijk has been a huge reason Koeman’s side are still in the hunt for Europe, and the 24-year-old can only seem to get better. Were it not for Alderweireld, the former Celtic man would have won many more plaudits. If Van Dijk builds upon an impressive first season and reaches new heights, it sadly won’t be long before Ronald Koeman will have to figure out quite how to replace him too.
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Southampton can’t afford to lose Dusan Tadic after reports of Ajax agreement
Mark Hughes simply cannot let this reported move materialise.
Southampton play-maker Dusan Tadic has allegedly agreed terms with Ajax, with the Dutch giants said to be willing to pay £15 million for his signature, according to reports from Dutch outlet De Telegraaf. But his current side should do all they can to scupper the deal.
The 29-year-old has become the Saints’ most creative addition, since arriving from the Eredivisie in 2014, acting as the team’s catalyst to build attacks with his technical quality and experience over his 162 appearances for the club.
Despite not having a prolific 2017/18 campaign, the Serbian international notched a respectable six goals and three assists, and Ajax are now keen to add him to their ranks after failing to win their domestic league for the fourth consecutive season.
But currently, Mark Hughes really isn’t in a position to be releasing players of Tadic’s quality, notably when a lack of creativity in the final third was undoubtedly the side’s biggest weakness. The Saints created more chances than anyone outside of the top six, yet were 15th for number of goals scored, as the final pass or finish was constantly lacking.
Take Tadic out of the equation and the team could have serious problems, as the majority of midfielders at the club are more focused on defensive duties, and are lacking in offensive quality.
Mark Hughes interested in reunion with Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron
Mark Hughes interested in bringing the experienced defender to St. Mary’s
Cameron, who turns 33 next month, was brought to Stoke by Tony Pulis in 2012 following a four-year stint with Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo.
He thrived under the leadership of Hughes, becoming a versatile and influential player for the Potters in the Premier League.
It is suggested that Cameron’s current deal includes a release clause in excess of £5 million, and Stoke will want to receive that figure if he is to leave the Bet365 stadium this summer.
Cameron is currently unsure whether he has a future at Stoke under Gary Rowett, so he will be hoping to find out when he returns to training next week.
It isn’t a secret that the Stoke boss is a fan of the player, however, heis trying to reduce the overall age of the squad following the club’s relegation from the Premier League but has stated there is room for some of the aging contingent which might include Cameron.
The American defender is highly thought of in his native country and a return to Major League Soccer has been rumoured. Championship clubs are also thought to be monitoring the situation.
The prospect of remaining in the Premier League and reuniting with Mark Hughes might be a huge factor if he decides to stay in England and finds himself out of favour with Stoke City’s promotion-chasing group.
With 149 Premier League starts to his name, there’s no doubt Cameron would add experience and valuable depth to Southampton’s defence.
Xherdan Shaqiri should join Southampton and continue in his best role
The Swiss international is wanted by a number of clubs, including Southampton.
It looks as though Xherdan Shaqiri will be on the move this summer. The Swiss star suffered relegation with Stoke City last season and is not prepared to play in the Championship. The news he could be on his way has attracted plenty of attention, with the latest reports suggesting it is Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton who are leading the race for his signature.
The Mirror reported this week that both Spurs and Southampton are keen on activating his bargain release clause of £12 million this summer.
The lure of playing for Spurs will no doubt be a feature for Shaqiri. They can offer the Champions League football he probably craves.
But he should choose Southampton instead.
Why? Here’s why?
Shaqiri thrives as a big fish in a smaller pond. During his time at hometown club FC Basel he was unstoppable and at Stoke he has been in similar form. With regular football and responsibility the 26-year-old thrives and can but in match-winning performances.
In the past, when playing for the bigger sides, he has found himself lost. At Bayern Munich he played a substitute role for his three seasons in Bavaria. Once he had enough of that, he headed to Inter Milan – another European giant.
Rightly so. In terms of talent, Shaqiri is good enough for such teams. However, again he found himself a bit-part player at the San Siro, coming off the bench more than he started.
The fact is Shaqiri is something of a luxury player and, if a team is not built around him, he does not thrive.
Southampton would automatically make him the star of their team. With the presence of his former Stoke boss Mark Hughes also a factor, then Southampton is obviously the best choice for the mercurial attacker.