It’s ironic that for a club based in a city that saw HMS Titanic set sail from its port that Southampton seem to keep on improving, despite being tested with football’s own proverbial icebergs.
In the short space of 30 months, the owner Katharina Liebherr and her board have had to contend with the departure of a chairman, a manager and his coaching staff, and players that would make up a very good starting eleven, if not a squad.
Yet despite constant warnings that this kind of upheaval can only be detrimental, the Saints have managed to move on up. The first time round, Ronald Koeman guided a new-look squad to a best ever Premier League finish of seventh only to better it last season with 6th.
Manchester United and Manchester City’s domestic cup success means that Saints have sailed into the Europa League group stages; not bad for a club who have gone from playing Stockport and Southend to potential ties against Schalke and Saint-Etienne within the space of seven seasons.
But it still looks to be another summer of change at Staplewood. Victor Wanyama has been itching for a move for the past two seasons, and could be granted a transfer this off-season. Sadio Mané and Graziano Pellè, two of Koeman’s best buys in that traumatic 2014 window, may join the Kenyan in clearing out their lockers.
It is noticeable that the Southampton hierarchy have moved to tie down some of their important squad members. Virgil Van Dijk has signed a new six-year-deal after an impressive debut campaign, whilst Fraser Forster and James Ward-Prowse have joined the Dutchman in penning their long term futures.
Whilst their contract extensions have been rightly celebrated, the man who the St Marys’ faithful want to see put pen to paper is Koeman himself. Of the past two summers, it is arguably the former Barcelona icon that has been the best signing of the lot.
His name and CV convinced a squad demoralised on his arrival that the club were still looking to compete. His calm nature in front of the press despite numerous questions over the clubs’ ambition helped steady the nerves of the supporters, too.
Now he has only one year left on the deal he signed in June 2014. Links to Everton were quashed by the man himself, despite promises of an incredible nine-figure transfer budget at Goodison Park, but it’s arguable that he’d have much more work to do at the Toffees if that kitty is primarily funded with the departures of Romelu Lukaku and John Stones.
Rather, Koeman is likely to look up. The somewhat uncertain future of Arsene Wenger, at least in the long term, means a potential job at Arsenal becoming available within the next few years. The Saints boss won numerous titles as a player; to do in the Premier League or Champions League as a manager would be seductive.
It is why Southampton are so keen to tie their manager down at least for a while yet. After all, the steady Dutch hand on the wheel has guided the Saints to touching distance of the Champions League; it is arguable that, had Forster been available before January, they would qualified for Europe’s premier competition quite comfortably.
But Koeman is ambitious, and the hierarchy seem to have appealed to that side of him. Talks of the next few seasons have rolled into talks about extending the Dutchman’s contract, as director of football Les Reed explained as now ‘getting agents and lawyers involved’ in a recent club video.
A club like Southampton cannot afford to pay the wages that the likes of Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs can offer, nor do they realistically have a chance of winning titles despite what Leicester shown this season just gone.
Departures are inevitable at a medium-sized club like the Saints. Getting a manager who has dealt with those bodyblows to sign a longer term contract may just make those bumps on the road to the Champions League a little easier to deal with.
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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.