It has become common knowledge on not only Merseyside, but throughout football, that since 2014 Southampton has become identifiable with being a feeder club to the Reds.
Spending in excess of £95m on the five acquisitions, Liverpool have been able to prize the Saints’ top talents almost yearly, starting under then manager Brendan Rodgers. This shows no signs of coming to a halt, as yet again lightning struck twice (or should I say for the fifth time) as Liverpool delivered the services of Sadio Mane this summer.
In Premier League history this influx of players solely making the one-way move to another club, can only be paralleled with Manchester City’s raid of Arsenal, where the Dubai backed Manchester club spent £70m on the North London club. Nevertheless, like City’s raid on Arsenal, not all the players obtained from Southampton can be classed as a success, and below I will be giving my verdict of our South Coast signings and who has lived up to expectation and who fell by the wayside.
Rickie Lambert (signed June 2014 £4m)
Spending five years at the club as a youth player before being released, to then nomadically work his way up through the leagues, Liverpudlian Lambert was an instant fans favourite upon signing. “I can’t believe it. I’ve loved this club all my life”, he said. But for all his passion towards the club, his on the pitch displays accounted for very little. A mere 3 goals in 36 games for the Reds, with none of them coming at Anfield was tragic for the childhood supporter, the love affair he shared with the club was turning into a nightmare.
The scouser who scored 117 times in 235 appearances for Southampton, looked a confused figure in the no.9 jersey at Anfield, never quite owning the self-belief that saw him earn a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad. It must be said Rodger’s tactics burdened the striker, but when he opted to play Raheem Sterling instead of the him upfront, the writing was pretty much on the wall for Lambert.
Adam Lallana (signed July 2014 £25m)
Joining Rickie Lambert that summer was Adam Lallana, who made the big money switch to Anfield in July. Upon his move instant success was wanted by fans, and this was not what they got. Lallana was included in the PFA’s Premier League team of the year, scoring nine goals the season before joining us, yet he was ineffective in his first season often not completing 90 mins and being hauled off by Rodgers – he was seen as an easily substitutable name.
Fast forward to the Jurgen Klopp era, and the rejuvenated playmaker looks every bit the player the Reds bought. Sighting Lallana as the first point of the press, he is now one of the first names on the team sheet. Interchanging well with Coutinho and Mane, Lallana has impressed scoring on the opening day and whilst also grabbing the winner for England in Slovakia. The good relationship he shares with Klopp can be seen with his vibrant performances, yet critics will still point to his goal return which he’s slowly turning around with two goals already this season.
Dejan Lovren (signed July 2014 £20m)
The third acquisition from the saints in 2014 was that of defender Dejan Lovren. Originally impressing against Klopp’s Dortmund side, Lovren was seen as a Hyypia type figure, yet what transpired for the Croat was a disaster of a debut season. Devoid of any confidence this poor form continued under Rodgers, yet upon the arrival of Klopp, the defender rediscovered his form that warranted his big money move, and is the first on the team sheet when planning a back four.
The enigma that was Lovren has confused many commentators, as the Croatian defender had lost his way primarily, with a mistake against West Ham during a 0-3 defeat being the lowest point. Yet in the same season and under Klopp, he dragged Liverpool to a Europa League final, becoming a cult hero on Merseyside. Now there are even desires for him to be made captain, the Lovren episode is a true Hollywood story.
Nathanial Clyne (signed July 2015 £12.5m)
Almost a year after raiding the Saints, we were back again and this time for Nathanial Clyne. The signing of the Right-Back was seen as a step up from that of Glen Johnson, and while I am not doubting that, the performances that were witnessed at Southampton have not been replicated in a Liverpool shirt.
As steady as his appearances are, the full-back has not supplied us with the attacking threat that saw him score against Liverpool for Southampton on the opening day and score a goal of the season contender in 2014. He is no longer England’s number one right-back, and as a defence, Liverpool still look shaky. That being said, long-term it could prove to be shrewd investment, but for now, more influence when attacking needs to be seen.
Sadio Mane (signed June 2016 £34m)
Another year, another acquisition, and the most expensive of the ‘famous five’ could prove to be the best. Although a definitive verdict cannot yet be reached due to the small time frame given, the recently crowned LFC player of the month is soon to be a huge Anfield hit. His playing style fits the Jurgen Klopp philosophy of high tempo and Gegenpressing, and whereas the previously mentioned have improved as players, Mane has improved the team.
In a recently published article by myself, I highlight why he will benefit Liverpool away from home, and I am definitely of the belief if kept fit, Mane will be able to lead the top four charge especially after his goal and assist yesterday too.