Southampton Exodus Reveals Harsh Truth in Professional Soccer
Southampton FC is a soccer club currently being punished for all the wrong reasons. After a tremendous resurgence over the last five years, rising up through two leagues and all the way to an 8th place finish last season in the English Premier League, the mass exodus has commenced. A brilliantly assembled squad has now been dismantled, as their head coach and several top players have left for greener pastures and more money. While the club is being adequately rewarded with some audacious transfer fees, the resounding truth is that such turnover and so many departures will likely ruin the once-promising hopes of this marvelous club.
It all began with manager Mauricio Pochettino taking his leadership skills to Tottenham, a club with more financial resources that Southampton. During his 18 months in charge he certainly achieved marvelous things, including several big victories against major clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. But there’s no denying that his time at the club was well used as a springboard to join a bigger team.
And while a manager taking advantage of a good season to jump ship isn’t much of a surprise, the way that his players have all followed suit has been particularly alarming for fans of Southampton. Just days after Pochettino’s departure, veteran striker and team leader Rickie Lambert departed for Liverpool. Having been a part of the revitalization of the club and the team’s star goal scorer for 5 years, it was a tough sell, but for a 32-year-old journeyman forward offered his first chance at a major EPL club, one could totally understand his wish to leave.
And so could fans when 19-year-old youth academy product Luke Shaw was plucked up by Manchester United, due to their ridiculous £30million offer, the most ever for a teenager. Considering the fact that Shaw plays at the usually inexpensive position of left back, such an offer couldn’t be refused.
But then the dominos fell. Brilliant playmaker Adam Lallana went to Liverpool for £25million, then center back Dejan Lovren joined the Liverpool party for another £20million, and most recently right back prospect Calum Chambers took off to Arsenal for £16million. And thus, a brilliant team that outperformed expectations has been cruelly dismantled, piece by piece.
And this is the harsh truth about professional soccer; whenever a player proves his worth, or a growing team finally begins to compete against the established top tier of teams, those top clubs simply turn around and buy up their best players. Southampton has grown used to this lifestyle as a “selling club”, having developed Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before they left for major clubs in the past. But this year’s transfer market hurts most because the entire core of the team has left. Rumors have even declared Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez to be next on the list of sales. By the time the dust settles, there may be no one left! Fortunately, the growing funds of these sales will help the club bring in some decent players, but organizing an entirely new team in a couple weeks before the new season is quite the impossible feat. Also, based on the way top players seem to treat this club, spending the money may actually prove to be difficult as most top players would clearly favor moves to more prestigious teams.
And because of this harsh reality in soccer, I doubt Southampton’s impressive run will continue. While they should survive and rebuild, it is a sad shame to see such a wonderful group of talented players disassembled so quickly after it finally caught fire. Breaking into that top tier of the EPL has proven once again to be impossible for mid table clubs.