It was only two months ago that Southampton were celebrating their highest finish in the top flight of English football for 24 years.
Guided by the innovative Mauricio Pochettino, the Saints had enchanted the Premier League with a young attacking team who had comfortably reached as high as eighth.
This was only Southampton’s second season back amongst the elite and only three seasons after they had been marooned in League One.
Their success acted as a beacon of hope last season.
It allowed other clubs to dream if they too invested in youth and made some astute signings they could emulate Southampton.
This should have been a summer of consolidation for the club as they sought to strengthen their squad for the new season.
But instead over the course of the last two months the whole club seems to have imploded and witnessed an unprecedented exodus of players from the South coast.
Pochettino was the first to leave St. Mary’s to take up the manager’s position at Tottenham, and he has since been followed by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren to Liverpool, Luke Shaw to Manchester United and now Calum Chambers to Arsenal.
And yet the fire sale is far from over.
As reported in The Guardian by Dominic Fifield, Pochettino is set to return to his former club to sign Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin for Tottenham.
The Dutch legend and new Southampton manager Ronald Koeman showed his sense of humour when, as reported by The Daily Mail, he tweeted a picture of an empty training pitch and the message “Ready for training!”
These sales might have brought in a combined total of £92 million, but that is of little consolation to shocked Southampton fans.
After one season of relative success any ambition appears to have evaporated from St. Mary’s; raising money has become more important than raising their position in the table.
Southampton have allowed themselves to be ruthlessly asset-stripped.
Once they offered hope, but now Southampton stand as a depressing symbol of knowing your place and not trying to disturb the status quo at the summit of the Premier League.
At the close of last season it would have been realistic for Southampton to contemplate a push for the Champions League, or at least the Europa League, but now after so much change the threat of even relegation looms over the club in the new season.
The Premier League has become more competitive in recent seasons; there are now more teams who can win the title.
But the Premier League still needs stories like Southampton; smaller teams attempting to gatecrash their way into the VIP area.
Southampton were never likely to emulate Atletico Madrid’s success, but it is dispiriting to see them give up so quickly.
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