How Southampton could have lined up had Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur not signed their best players, such as Van Dijk and Bale
Southampton welcome Premier League title contenders Liverpool to the St Mary’s Stadium on Friday night as the season draws to a close.
The game, which is live on talkSPORT, will surely carry a sense of nostalgia for certain members of Jurgen Klopp’s side as well.
Southampton have consistently produced academy graduates who have dazzled on the south coast.
However, recent years have seen the Saints ravaged by bigger Premier League sides who have poached their biggest talents.
Take, for instance, the 2014/15 side under Ronald Koeman.
Littered with incredible stars, Southampton finished the season in seventh place, just two points behind Liverpool.
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However, the club are now 16th in the Premier League and are embroiled in a relegation battle.
The slow and steady decline is no doubt linked to their conveyor belt of talent being ruthlessly exploited at seemingly every turn.
But just how could they have been had they kept their best stars?
Below, talkSPORT.com looks at how Southampton could be lining up had they not been so ruthlessly raided, especially by Tottenham and Liverpool.
GOALKEEPER – Paulo Gazzaniga
The young Argentina international is currently playing second fiddle to Hugo Lloris in north London, although that could all change following the World Cup winner’s recent woes.
Although he started his youth career with Valencia, Gazzaniga was released in 2011 and joined Gillingham on a two-year deal on the recommendation of European scout.
Just one year later, the shot-stopper was on his way to St Mary’s for their return to the Premier League and spent five years behind no.1 Fraser Forster.
The 6’5 keeper is still only 27 and could well become first choice if Lloris continues his erratic form.
SOLD TO: Tottenham Hotspur (£900k, August 2017)
RIGHT BACK – Nathaniel Clyne
Like Gazzaniga, Clyne did not come through the Southampton academy, but he certainly made his name while with the Saints.
Born and raised in south London, the right-back became a regular under Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace and made more than 100 appearances for the Eagles.
Nigel Adkins brought him to the Premier League in 2012 and Clyne went from strength to strength, earning an England cap in 2014 as a reward for his excellent displays.
A move to Liverpool in 2015 soon followed and Clyne initially excelled under Jurgen Klopp before an injury last season saw him lose his place to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
SOLD TO: Liverpool (£12.5million, July 2015)
CENTRE BACK: Toby Aldeweireld
Technically speaking, Alderweireld was only ever on loan at St Mary’s. However, his exceptional performances saw Tottenham swoop in ahead of the Saints when Atletico Madrid cancelled the £6.8million buy-out clause.
His time in Spain can be summed up by his Champions League final performance in 2014. With Atletico leading city rivals Real 1-0 with seven minutes to go, the defender was sent on by Diego Simeone. They lost 4-1 and he was allowed to leave on loan in the summer.
While this will come as a surprise to some fans, it proved to be the Premier League’s gain as the Belgium international dominated Premier League strikers by maintaining an incredibly high tackle success rate.
Now considered one of the best defenders in the division, the 30-year-old moved to Spurs and instantly was selected for the PFA Team of the Year.
SOLD TO: Tottenham Hotspur (£11.5million, July 2015)
CENTRE BACK: Virgil van Dijk
The world’s most expensive defender and captain of the Netherlands, Van Dijk’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular.
A 2015 summer signing from Celtic, van Dijk wasted no time in convincing Saints supporters they had found a worthy replacement for the recently departed Alderweireld.
Blessed with tremendous physical and technical attributes, the centre-half bludgeoned opposition strikers and then had the composure to spray 70-yard passes out with either foot.
Naturally, the biggest clubs in the world came calling, and it was Liverpool who splashed the cash to bring the colossus to Anfield. Since then, he has transformed the Reds from potential Champions League qualifiers to genuine title challengers.
SOLD TO: Liverpool (£75million, January 2018)
LEFT BACK: Luke Shaw
Once the most coveted teenager in the world, Shaw moved to Manchester United despite interest from Chelsea to become the most expensive teenager in world football.
A Blues fan when growing up, Shaw trained with the club’s development programme at the age of eight.
However, he was not granted an academy place and joined the Saints. By the age of 15, he was playing for the Under-18 side before making his senior debut at the age of 16 in 2012.
Under the guidance of Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino, the left-back earned a spot in the 2013/14 PFA Team of the Year and his lucrative move soon followed.
SOLD TO: Manchester United (£33.75million, June 2014)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Victor Wanyama
After a successful youth career in his native Kenya, Wanyama earned a move to Belgium before Celtic snapped him up in 2011.
He became the first Kenyan to ever score in the Champions League when he netted against Barcelona in 2012, a memorable game as the Bhoys managed to win 2-1 despite having 16 per cent possession.
A move to the Premier League followed in 2013 and the 27-year-old’s sheer size and physical prowess made him a near indomitable figure at the heart of the Saints’ midfield.
Although injuries limited his time on the pitch in his first season, his performances across the next two under Ronald Koeman were so well-received it became nigh-on impossible for the club to keep him. Former boss Pochettino brought him to north London, where injuries have again limited his game time.
SOLD TO: Tottenham Hotspur (£13million, June 2016)
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Adam Lallana
A legend at St Mary’s, Lallana played through League One and the Championship before becoming captain in the Premier League.
The midfielder initially learned his trade at south coast rivals Bournemouth before joining the Southampton Academy aged 12 at a cost of £18,000 in compensation.
His performances in the third and then second tier of English football caught the eye as he danced his way through challenges and continued to score and assist for fun as the Saints claimed the Championship title in 2012.
His two seasons in the Premier League while a Southampton player were equally fruitful, joining Shaw in the PFA Team of the Year in 2013/14 before Liverpool acted quickly to beat Manchester United to his signature.
SOLD TO: Liverpool (£25million, June 2014)
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
A Southampton youth graduate from the age of seven, Oxlade-Chamberlain excited fans with his direct running and pace on the wings at St Mary’s.
At just 16, he made his senior debut against Huddersfield Town. In the 2010/11 season, he marked his first start with his first senior goal and the hype began to gather pace.
His father, former England international Mark, told reporters he was keen for his son to join Arsenal after dominating League One defenders and the winger made the switch to the Emirates in 2011 for a reported £15million.
His debut came in the infamous 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford and, since then, his short career has been littered with highs and lows. Injuries and loss of form saw him slip in and out of the team before making the move to Liverpool in the summer of 2017 for £35million.
SOLD TO: Arsenal (£15million, August 2011)
LEFT WING: Theo Walcott
Shortly after leaving school, Walcott joined up with Southampton’s first team during pre-season training before the start of the 2005/06 season and never looked back.
Blessed with terrifying pace, the winger became the Saints’ youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days and remained in the first team after scoring against Millwall and Stoke City.
Arsenal confirmed they had agreed a deal with the teenager in the January of 2006, with the fee potentially rising from £5million to £12million based on incentives and add-ons. In the summer, he was shock inclusion for England’s 2006 World Cup squad.
Although his early promise has since faded, the 30-year-old is still a Premier League player with Everton.
SOLD TO: Arsenal (£12million, January 2006)
RIGHT-WING: Gareth Bale
At 16, Bale made his Southampton bow in the Championship and earned a reputation as a set-piece specialist for his incredible accuracy from dead-ball situations.
Credited as one of the most creative players in his first season, the Wales international soon garnered attention from Premier League clubs.
Bale moved to Tottenham in 2007, but the move initially did not work out. The youngster did not win a game he started until January 2010 when he replaced Benoit Assou-Ekoto.
A change in position gave Bale a new lease of life and after plundering 31 league goals in the 2012/13 season, he moved to Real Madrid for a world record fee and has continued to dazzle supporters across the globe with his exciting style of play.
SOLD TO: Tottenham Hotspur (£10million, May 2007)
STRIKER: Sadio Mane
Starting his career at the Académie Génération Foot in his native Senegal, Mane moved quickly from Metz to Red Bull Salzburg after his glittering performances in Europe.
His time in Austria was marred by a sour point at the end when he refused to come on during a game as he tried to force a transfer away.
Before the summer window in 2014 shut, Koeman splashed the cash to bring the forward to St Mary’s and was rewarded with pace, trickery and goals. He scored the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick at 2 minutes 56 seconds in a 6–1 win over Aston Villa in May 2016.
The 26-year-old continued to score throughout the 2015/16 season, netting in wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool and it was the Reds who spent big to lure him away from the south coast.
SOLD TO: Liverpool (£34million, June 2016)
TOTAL SQUAD COST: £242.65 Million
See how Southampton get on against title chasing Liverpool on Friday, live on talkSPORT at 20:00 on 5 April.
Source: SportsLatest TS