Southampton show no signs of slowing down their summer fire sale, with the Premier League side confirming further departures on both Sunday and Monday and another pair looking to follow suit.
Liverpool signed Dejan Lovren late at the weekend, with young right-back Calum Chambers departing for Arsenal soon after. Spurs are also set to swoop for midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez in the next day or so, all as confirmed by BBC Sport.
It will mark a total of seven high-profile departures from St. Mary's over the summer, not even counting that of manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Can the beginnings of Saints' ills be traced back to the exit of former club executive chairman Nicola Cortese?
The Italian had full running of the business and football activities at Southampton for several years, overseeing promotions and managers from League One to the Premier League, but left in January 2014 after not being able to continue a working relationship with owner Katharina Liebherr.
Former boss Pochettino admitted at the time he would consider his future if Cortese was no longer on the scene. Per Guardian:
Of course [I would not stay], because the person that has put his faith in me in this club and as a manager is Nicola Cortese. Nicola Cortese has basically been the reality at Southampton for the past four years. Of course, the people that are in the club, that are part of the club, that are behind the scenes in the club were a little bit worried about what has been said. Me on a personal sense, I would not understand a Southampton without Nicola being here.
Cortese himself urged Southampton not to sell the home-grown talents which made up the core of the squad last season, including Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, both of whom have indeed since moved on.
The Italian chairman left, then the Argentine boss, then plenty of English players—and the foreign ones besides have soon followed.
Southampton as it was just one year ago is basically no more.
As is the case with football, for better and for worse, the game and the club continues regardless. The challenge now for boss Ronald Koeman is to invest the vast funds he has at his disposal in a wise manner, not only to replace talent on the pitch but also to find a system and a game plan which can succeed.
Saints finished eighth in the Premier League last season, an impressive showing which was as much as they could have hoped to have achieved.
A top-half finish will once again be the uppermost target, but in a season of enormous rebuild, the Dutch head coach is likely to be told to simply gel his side together as fast as possible and not be involved in a relegation battle.
On the positive side for him, there is not an enormous amount of difference in team shape between the 4-2-3-1 used by Pochettino most of last season, and the 4-3-3 which Koeman has favoured previously.
An adaptation period would have been expected in any case, but he's basically going to be putting an entirely new starting XI together now.
If Schneiderlin and Rodriguez move to Spurs, the Saints will have brought in well over £100 million in transfer fees.
Southampton's Summer Sales: Shaw: £30m Lallana: £25m Lovren: £20m Chambers: £16m Lambert: £4m Total = £95m— FansAllStar Football (@FASfootball) July 28, 2014
Up against that, they need at least two wide attackers or another forward, a very good central midfielder, a new first choice centre-back, a left-back and, seemingly, a goalkeeper.
The money is more than enough to bring in that number of players and they have signed Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle—now the concern will be over whether the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Clyne and others decide they have to follow suit and abandon ship.
Regardless of who Saints determine are the right signings, they are now likely to be told to pay top prices for recruits, just like they have demanded for their own players, with every club knowing they are in need of new signings and rolling in money. And then Koeman has to mould them into a team capable of getting results.
Don't write them off completely as an entity for the coming season—but at the same time, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see them struggle initially. Whatever path they choose, Southampton need to stop the outgoings from the club of major faces, in all departments, and begin the restructuring of the first team.
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