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Southampton

Does Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk stance begin a “change of course” for the club?

Martyn Cooke

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Since their return to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton have become widely perceived as being one of the best run football clubs in the world – which is strange considering The Saints always seem to be in a constant state of transition.

The club is famed for its youth development system, which has introduced us to the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and James Ward-Prowse in the last two decades, with a seemingly endless conveyor belt of talent being produced and integrated into the first team picture on an annual basis.

Southampton have also implemented a dynamic scouting structure, which identifies little known foreign imports that can be brought in at little cost and then moulded into global superstars.

This mixture of home-grown talent and intelligent player recruitment has meant that the club has been able to retain its Premier League status with relative ease whilst also having dipped their toes into European football.

However, each and every summer The Saints seem to undergo a tumultuous transition that sees the so-called big clubs strip Southampton of their prized assets – both in terms of players and management.

At no point have they seemed capable of resisting the approaches of the footballing elite and the club are now synonymous with seeing their best players leave on an annual basis.

Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane are just a handful of stars that have been sold by The Saints in recent years for in excess of £100 million.

It is worth noting that this policy of buy or promote, develop and sell has had little impact on Southampton’s overall success in recent campaigns, although it has left many onlookers wondering what may have been had the club not cashed in on their prized assets on a regular basis.

However, The Saints have taken a different approach this summer and have firmly rebuked interest in their star central defender Virgil van Dijk, refusing to sell at any price and forcing the Dutchman to train away from the first team.

In June, the club went as far as to report Liverpool to the Premier League and asked for an investigation into an illegal approach for the player from the Merseyside outfit which resulting in The Reds publicly withdrawing their interest.

It is a significant change of tact of Southampton and the chairman, Ralph Krueger, is adamant that this new approach is a “statement” that signals a “change of course”.

Speaking to The Guardian about interest in van Dijk and The Saints’ refusal to entertain any offer for the player, Krueger explained:

“Virgil is not for sale in this window. It’s not about him, it’s about an overall much, much, much bigger picture – a change of course for Southampton. … That’s one player in the whole equation of 25 and it is a visible one. But for us it’s the principle and it’s the path and it’s the statement we need to make to get to a new place as a club.”

“The first summer I was here five players went out and six went in. Second summer three went out, seven came in – and third summer five went out, five came in. Now it is one out and two in – this is who we want to become.

“We want to mature, we want to be a team that can profit from synergies that create much more attractive football and a better product for the fans and gives us a chance to get back into Europe.”

Southampton’s disinterest in selling van Dijk is a definitive statement of intent from Krueger and the club hierarchy.

No longer are the Saints to be seen as a selling club – an institution that can have its best players cherry-picked on an annual basis by so-called big clubs – the south-coast outfit now has much more lofty ambitions, namely European football.

However, the influence of player power should not be underestimated and even if the club do hold on to van Dijk during this transfer window there is no guarantee that he will be willing to reintegrate himself into the first team picture.

This summer’s longest running transfer saga will still have a number of twists and turns as it runs until the end of the month, although Southampton’s attitude suggests that they no longer want to be synonymous with selling their star assets.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Southampton

Xherdan Shaqiri should join Southampton and continue in his best role

The Swiss international is wanted by a number of clubs, including Southampton.

Mathew Nash

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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.

(Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

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.

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Southampton

Alex McCarthy isn’t the signing of intent Tottenham need

Josh Kerr

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Photo: Getty Images

According to reports from the Mirror, Tottenham are currently keeping tabs on the progress of Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and may swoop for the Saints no 1.

The 28-year-old has attracted a lot of attention since he replaced Fraser Forster between the sticks for the Saints earlier this season and was crucial in ensuring Southampton stayed in the Premier League.

A return to London may tempt the former Crystal Palace keeper. However, it doesn’t seem like a transfer that will suit either party.

Hugo Lloris is still one of the most respected keepers in world football and McCarthy, although impressive this season, isn’t a player capable of replacing the France national team captain. The two are similar in age and the difference in current ability is substantial.

The Mirror‘s report also states Michel Vorm’s contract is coming up to its final year so McCarthy could be seen as a potential replacement for the Dutchman. However, Paulo Gazzaniga has emerged as a solid candidate for that secondary role after his MOTM performance against Crystal Palace in November.

If Tottenham are to kick on and try and keep the pace with City, then signings are crucial. Their season could very much depend on the business they get done this summer and signings like McCarthy will not excite fans in the slightest.

Liverpool‘s first signing saw them break the bank to sign Fabinho, a talent who has shone in Europe the last few years, and maybe Pochettino should be ensuring the Lilywhites are after the same calibre of player considering the club finished in the top-three for the third successive season.

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Bristol City

Sam McQueen linked but losing Joe Bryan would hurt Bristol City

The Englishman has been at Ashton Gate since 15 years of age.

Josh Kerr

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Joey Bryan
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Bristol Post, Bristol City are being linked with Southampton‘s Sam McQueen as the club’s replacement for full-back Joe Bryan, meaning the South-West club could be preparing for life without the 24-year-old, who has made over 229 appearances for the club.

The Robins ultimately look set to lose Bryan during the summer transfer window with Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa all keen on signing the left-back. With only a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, the club could be tempted to cash-in for the home grown defender, for a fee of around £6 million.

Despite McQueen being a sensible replacement for City, his arrival wouldn’t quite soften the blow of losing Bryan, who has quickly established himself as one of the best all-round defenders in the EFL Championship.

The full-back has been with the side since he was 15 years of age and has gone on to become one of their most important players. Many will remember the 24-year-old’s wonder strike to help beat Premier League giants Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, after a display that saw him named man-of-the-match.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Losing a player of his calibre will not help the club’s attempts to challenge for the play-offs next season. Considering the club were in contention for a top two place as recently as Christmas, it is difficult to comprehend the board selling one of their best players.

The Robins sat second in the Championship during the festive period but went on to finish a disappointing 11th after only picking up 20 points from their final 22 games.

Lee Johnson reportedly sees McQueen, who was told he can quite St Mary’s this summer, as the most likely replacement for Bryan this summer, if the right offer comes in for the latter’s services.

The Saints defender played 22 times in the 2017/18 season, mostly from the bench, but is a player who could definitely prove his worth.

At 23, he still has years to improve and with a full Championship season under his belt, he could emerge a shrewd replacement for long-term servant Bryan.

However, the news won’t float well with City fans who would prefer to keep their homegrown player, rather than attempt to replace him.

Nonetheless, with a year left on his contract, cashing in on the £6 million talent, while bringing in Sam McQueen, could prove a smart piece of business from the Robins.

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