A Summer to Look Forward to for Southampton Fans?
This has come to be a miserable time of year for Saints fans with many key players leaving despite the club continuing its progression. In 2014, Mauricio Pochettino led the club to its joint-highest finish before jumping ship to Tottenham after months of stalling over a new contract. Talismanic striker Rickie Lambert headed to Liverpool followed closely by Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren whilst Luke Shaw went to Manchester United and Arsenal swooped for right-back Calum Chambers.
In 2015 it wasn`t much better for Saints fans with Morgan Schneiderlin joining Shaw at Old Trafford having stayed an extra year despite attempts to sign him by Tottenham the previous summer. Nathaniel Clyne followed the much-travelled path up to the red half of Merseyside whilst Pochettino took Toby Alderweireld to White Hart Lane despite Les Reed`s best efforts to bring the Belgian defender back to St. Marys following a successful loan spell from Atletico Madrid.
This summer however, appears to be different. Having completed the seemingly impossible task of replacing Alderweireld with Van Dijk, it was only a matter of time before the Premier League`s vultures were linked with the commanding Dutchman. Unlike his predecessors in Alderweireld and the man before him, Dejan Lovren, Van Dijk signed a new 6-year deal to stay at the club. Liverpool and Chelsea target Fraser Forster followed suit penning a new 5-year contract to the club whilst academy graduate James Ward-Prowse signed a new 6-year deal.
The two players who the national media have constantly linked with moves away this summer are in-form Senagalese winger Sadio Mane and Kenyan powerhouse Victor Wanyama. Mane has been linked with Bayern Munich and Manchester United with recent headlines speaking of interest from Liverpool despite Jurgen Klopp`s team being unable to offer European football next season. Wanyama has been tipped to head to North London with Tottenham thought to be ahead of Arsenal in the race to sign him.
The Daily Star reports that Mane is happy to stay at Southampton which would be a great boost for Saints fans having seen regular reports that he is keen to leave throughout the season. Wanyama is the one who realistically could depart though after consistently being reported to be keen to leave the club and missing August`s 3-0 victory over Norwich City having been "not mentally or physically good enough to play" amid transfer speculation. To his credit, he has performed well since then despite a poor disciplinary record which saw him sent off on 3 occasions - the joint most in Europe`s big 5 leagues this season. However, the indications point to Wanyama being reluctant to extend his contract this summer and with his current deal expiring in 2017, it appears likely he will move on. Graziano Pelle has been linked with a return to Italy although recent reports have said he is happy to stay at St. Marys.
Three fringe players have already departed, but it does not seem likely that anyone will join them bar potentially those mentioned above. Club legend Kelvin Davis left after a decade on the South Coast having just made a single appearance in October`s 2-2 draw with eventual champions Leicester City. Alongside Davis, £12m flop Gaston Ramirez and young goalkeeper Will Britt also moved on. Wanyama is not irreplaceable though with Oriol Romeu having proved his worth whenever Ronald Koeman has played him. The beginning of a new £5.14b broadcasting deal also provides the club with extensive funds to find a like-for-like replacement. Porto`s Giannelli Imbula was heavily linked before a January move to Stoke whilst Inter Milan`s Geoffrey Kondogbia would also prove a viable replacement.
In terms of incomings, the aforementioned broadcasting deal and guaranteed European football put Saints in a commanding position this summer. As Stoke proved with the signings of Imbula, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri, money can prove to be worth more than reputation for many footballers during the transfer window. Arsenal`s ex-Saints duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers have been linked with returns whilst Maarten Stekelenburg is reportedly set to sign a permanent deal to become Fraser Forster`s understudy at the club. Captain Jose Fonte is said to have told Portuguese media he will try and bring international teammate Joao Mario to St. Marys, whilst Anderlecht`s Dennis Praet, Werder Bremen`s Austrian midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic and Juventus duo Simone Zaza and Roberto Pereyra have also been linked.
Whatever happens, it should be an exciting summer down on the South Coast.