Football Features

Hit or miss? Every player Southampton signed to replace a big-money sale

By Felix Keith

Published: 13:11, 14 November 2020

Regardless of what they do on the pitch, for many, Southampton will always be a club synonymous with transfer sales.

Ever since Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale exploded onto the scene via plenty of fleet-footed runs and eye-catching free-kicks to earn moves to Arsenal and Tottenham in 2006 and 2007 respectively, Saints have become established as a happy hunting ground for the Premier League’s elite.

Southampton’s academy is renowned for developing excellent players, while their scouting department has unearthed a few gems from elsewhere. Once those players begin to peak they often fly the nest in return for sizeable transfer fees.

As a club, if you are going to make a habit of selling your most promising players, then you simply have to get good at replacing them too.

Thankfully for Saints fans, the club have made a habit of practising canny recruitment in the transfer market.

Sold: Luke Shaw (£27M) | Signed: Ryan Bertrand (£10m)

Southampton appearances: 214*

Verdict: Hit

Luke Shaw was an archetypal Southampton success story, developing from highly-thought-of youngster under Nigel Adkins to first team regular during Mauricio Pochettino’s reign.

After helping Southampton to an eighth-place finish and being named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2013/14, Shaw was in high demand. In came Manchester United, making the left-back the most expensive teenager in world football at the time.

Despite starting a Champions League final on his debut in the competition to help Chelsea win the trophy in 2012, Ryan Bertrand was not a high-profile replacement for Shaw.

He initially joined Southampton on a season-long loan for the 2014/15 season. Bertrand hit the ground running, making 39 appearances in all competitions to help Saints finish seventh and earn himself an England recall.

The Englishman was signed permanently in February 2015 and since then he has established himself, not only as Southampton’s first-choice left-back, but as one of the most consistent under-the-radar performers in the Premier League.

Sold: Adam Lallana (£25m) | Signed: Dusan Tadic (£10m)

Southampton appearances: 162

Verdict: Hit

Shaw was far from the only Southampton player to head for the exit in the summer of 2014. Club captain Adam Lallana pulled at fans’ heartstrings by upping sticks and moving to Liverpool, ending a 14-year association with the team.

Lallana moved off the back of his best-ever season, in which he was named in the PFA Team of the Year and won both the fans’ and players’ player of the year awards.

Replacing such an influential player was never going to be easy, but Dusan Tadic managed it. With Pochettino joining the exodus, the Serbian playmaker became the first signing under new boss Ronald Koeman in July 2014, joining from Dutch side FC Twente.

Tadic immediately struck up an excellent relationship with fellow new arrivals Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane to form a brilliant front three.

He never looked back from there, becoming Saints creator-in-chief for four years as they achieved three consecutive top-eight Premier League finishes to reach the Europa League, before moving to Ajax in July 2018.

Sold: Dejan Lovren (£20m) | Signed: Toby Alderweireld (loan)

Southampton appearances: 28

Verdict: Hit

Centre-back Dejan Lovren was another to move in the tumultuous summer of 2014, cashing in on a solid season to move to Liverpool.

The Croatian’s replacement only stayed for one season, but his impact was undeniable.

Toby Alderweireld was brought to St Mary’s on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid in a business masterstroke which saw Saints get a ready-made Premier League performer to partner Jose Fonte in defence.

Alderweireld was one of the reasons Southampton managed not to go backwards after a string of departures and the club were desperate to make the move permanent. However, it wasn’t to be, as Tottenham swooped to secure the Belgian’s services.

Sold: Morgan Schneiderlin (£25m) | Signed: Oriol Romeu (£5m)

Southampton appearances: 198*

Verdict: Hit

The successful 2014/15 season under Koeman saw battling midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin move to Manchester United after seven years at the club.

The Frenchman had been a key player for Saints, bringing a relentless ball-winning energy to the middle of the pitch, and replacing him would be no easy feat. Thankfully, Saints’ scouting department found just the man, signing Oriol Romeu from Chelsea for £5m.

Like many before him, Romeu had failed to make much of an impact in west London, spending time on loan at Valencia and Stuttgart, but he has found a home on the south coast.

Although the Spaniard may not be easy on the eye, his tireless work ethic and positional sense have seen him used regularly by Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino, Mark Hughes and Ralph Hasenhuttl.

His partnership with James Ward-Prowse in Hasenhuttl’s 4-2-2-2 pressing machine has been one of many highlights of this season for the Saints.

Sold: Nathaniel Clyne (£12.5m) | Signed: Cedric Soares (£4.7m)

Southampton appearances: 138

Verdict: Hit

Nathaniel Clyne was a near ever-present for Southampton following their promotion to the Premier League in 2012.

Signed from hometown club Crystal Palace, Clyne was a reliable and tough-tackling modern right-back capable of effecting the game at both ends of the pitch. His £12.5m move to Liverpool in July 2015 was just reward for his performances.

Saints looked to Portugal for a new arrival, signing Cedric Soares from Sporting CP for £4.7m. The diminutive fullback provided a like-for-like replacement for Clyne and was well-suited to Koeman’s style of play.

Cedric joined Saints at an opportune time, enjoying their Europa League campaigns with Koeman and Puel before the dip under Pellegrino and Hughes.

Like others, his performances tailed off, with fans growing particularly frustrated with his erratic crossing ability, and he was sent on loan to Inter Milan before joining Arsenal this year, initially on loan and then on a free transfer.

Sold: Sadio Mane (£34m) | Signed: Sofiane Boufal (£16m) & Nathan Redmond (£10m)

Southampton appearances: 83 & 172*

Verdict: Miss & hit

Sadio Mane was effervescent during his two years at Southampton. Signed from Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, the Senegalese winger immediately took to Premier League football.

Mane cost Saints £11.8m and within a few games he already looked like a bargain. For two seasons his performances alongside Pelle and Tadic were a joy to watch, packed full of highlights, and Southampton must have known he wasn’t there to stay long.

His two goals after coming off the bench at half-time to demolish Liverpool 3-2, having been 2-0 down, in March 2016 couldn’t help but catch the eye and Jurgen Klopp’s side shelled out £34m to sign him that summer.

With a chunky transfer fee banked, Saints spread their bets to sign Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond from Lille and Norwich respectively.

Boufal turned out to be all promise and little end product, his wonderful slaloming run and finish against West Brom which won the Premier League 2017/18 goal of the season award, an exception rather than the rule before this summer’s move to Angers.

Redmond has been a slow burn, but a worthwhile one. Although the England winger has never matched Mane’s goal return, he has developed into an intelligent player trusted to perform Hasenhuttl’s demanding system.

Sold: Graziano Pelle (£12m) | Signed: Manolo Gabbiadini (£15m)

Southampton appearances: 60

Verdict: Miss

Southampton fans never thought a replacement for Rickie Lambert could be found, but Graziano Pelle was the closest thing they could wish for. The Italian centre-forward was a much-loved figure during his two seasons at St Mary’s, providing the figurehead to Koeman’s successful team.

His move to Shandong Luneng in the summer of 2016 was an unwelcomed shock and his replacement did not arrive until the January transfer window six months later.

Manolo Gabbiadini certainly made an impact to begin with, scoring six goals in his opening four games for Saints, but those early strikes were just about as good as things got for the Italian marksman who joined from Napoli.

Gabbiadini did score some important goals, netting twice in Saints’ narrow 3-2 League Cup final defeat by Manchester United in 2017 and securing Saints’ top-flight survival with the only goal in a 1-0 win at Swansea in May 2018, yet ultimately there were not enough of them.

He managed just 12 goals in two years at the club, before moving back to Italy with Sampdoria in January 2019.

Sold: Victor Wanyama (£11m) | Signed: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£12.8m)

Southampton appearances: 134

Verdict: Hit

Victor Wanyama was an effective, destructive presence in the Southampton midfield for three seasons.

His partnership with Schneiderlin provided Southampton with one of the most solid midfield blocks in the Premier League, so his move to Tottenham in June 2016 came as a blow to the south coast side.

Southampton looked to Bayern Munich for a replacement, bringing the highly-rated Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in for a fraction more than they sold Wanyama for.

Just 21 at the time, Hojbjerg was signed as one for the future and as such took a while to find his feet, although he still made 35 appearances across the 2016/17 campaign. However, the Danish midfielder only got better over time, growing in stature and confidence to become Southampton’s captain under Hasenhuttl.

Hojbjerg was stripped of the captaincy as speculation over a move to Spurs increased, but when the transfer eventually came to fruition this summer he left having made a positive impact on the side.

Sold: Virgil van Dijk (£75m) | Signed Wesley Hoedt (£15m) & Jan Bednarek (£5m)

Southampton appearances: 45 & 83*

Verdict: Miss & hit

Virgil van Dijk’s £75m transfer from Southampton to Liverpool was made official on 1 January 2018, but had been a long time coming. The relationship between the two clubs became increasingly fractious during prolonged negotiations, with Saints accusing Liverpool of tapping up their player.

Ultimately both sides got what they wanted. Liverpool gained a world-class centre-back, while Saints extracted a world-record fee for a defender.

Signed from Celtic in September 2015 for £13m, Van Dijk had been a colossal presence in the Saints back line for three years. Replacing him was never going to be straightforward and their attempts yielded mixed results.

Both Wesley Hoedt and Jan Bednarek arrived in the summer of 2017, while Van Dijk was still on the Saints books, and neither pulled up any trees as the side struggled under the stewardship of Pellegrino.

Hoedt made 32 appearances in his first season as Saints narrowly avoided relegation, while the 21-year-old Bednarek got on the pitch just eight times.

Over time the tables have turned for the duo. Hoedt’s gangly, error-prone style has seen him marginalised and loaned out three times to Celta Vigo, Royal Antwerp and Lazio, whereas Bednarek has developed impressively to become an established first team member under Hasenhuttl.

Sold: Jay Rodriguez (£12m) | Signed Guido Carillo (£19m)

Southampton appearances: 10

Verdict: Miss

Back in the 2013/14 season Jay Rodriguez was on top of the world. He had scored 15 Premier League goals by March and was in line to earn a place in England’s 2014 World Cup squad before disaster struck.

An ACL injury ruined his England ambitions and put him on the sidelines for a year. Although he did come back and sign a new four-year deal with Saints, his form never picked up to the same levels again and he was sold to West Bromwich Albion in July 2017.

Six months later, halfway through a desperate season under Pellegrino, Southampton made a costly decision. They decided to back their ailing manager to the tune of £19m, signing a striker he had previously worked with.

The only impact Guido Carillo subsequently made was on lists of the worst ever Premier League signings. He played 10 times, scored no goals and contributed nothing.

Pellegrino was sacked on 12 March, leaving behind the striker he vouched for. The Argentine took Carillo on loan at his next job with Leganes in Spain, where the forward spent two seasons before his contract was cancelled in a quiet exit this summer to Elche on a free transfer.