Author Archives: Aidan Small

What’s next for Jay Rodriguez?

We all remember that heartbreaking moment. It was April 2014 and Southampton were on course to reaching their highest Premier League finish with the help of Jay Rodriguez’s immense goalscoring form; but upon Southampton’s trip to the Etihad stadium in search of yet another three points, Jay Rodriguez and his World Cup dreams came crashing down. The loyal and loving Southampton fans backed him with great pride during his spell on the sidelines – 13 months to be precise – but it’s now been 28 months since that injury and some would say that there has been little to suggest that we will ever witness that fine form again. With that, Rodriguez has been linked with a loan move away from Southampton and that has many fans talking.

Early yesterday morning it was reported that Hull City have enquired for the availability of Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez on loan, and this has truly been a topic of split opinion for Southampton fans.

But first things first, let’s think about this situation. At this present moment, it seems that Claude Puel has found his favoured attacking combination in Nathan Redmond and Shane Long – meanwhile, Austin appears to be the first call from the bench. For a forward who is in desperate need of game time, this can understandably be a worrying situation going into the new season. So much so that this link to Hull City may well be Rodriguez’s agent at work.

In addition, it must be pointed out just how tough of a summer those poor Hull City fans have been forced to endure – if anyone can sympathise, then it’s us Southampton fans. After such a summer, being linked with a player of Rodriguez’s calibre will most likely give the Tigers fans a much needed boost. And whilst I’m sure that Hull City would love to acquire the services of Rodriguez, they will know full well that it’s an optimistic move. A move that can only result in good PR for the club, regardless of the result in negotiations. If Hull City secure the deal, then their fans are delighted, and even if the deal breaks down, the fans will be left optimistic over who the next target may be.

But, if this deal were to go ahead, how could it benefit Southampton, and most importantly, Jay Rodriguez?

When you consider that the fan favourite had the entire duration of pre-season to impress and show his qualities to Southampton’s new boss, Claude Puel, Rodriguez clearly isn’t in the blueprints of the first XI. At a time when Rodriguez is reportedly “100% fit”, he needs to be playing regular football; anything other than that for the former England International is an act of willingly allowing his career to simmer out. It goes without saying that Hull City will be desperate for goals this season in their chase for Premier League safety, and if they were to acquire Rodriguez’s services, he would no doubt gain those valuable first team minutes and be used in his favoured role – an inside left forward.

With that move however, Southampton of course would be left one man lighter in attack, so what do they have to gain from this possible opportunity?

Firstly, Southampton would no doubt be able to receive a reasonable fee for the loan, and alongside this, the wage bill would also be freed up. This could present Southampton the opportunity to carry out a more stable loan move themselves or reinvest the small fee into some young/lower League talent.

Another benefit to this move could be that whilst Southampton carry out their season under Puel, Rodriguez can be progressing as a player at Hull with the aim to once again make his mark in the Southampton side over the 2017/18 season. A season of almost guaranteed football with less pressure on his performances may well reinstall the confidence that Rodriguez once thrived upon – this could only be seen as a benefit.

However, the obvious disadvantage to Rodriguez heading away from Southampton is that the moment an injury in attack occurs, Rodriguez will be needed as third choice. Not to mention that if two injuries were to occur (a perfectly plausible situation) then Rodriguez would be a sure starter.

For this reason, I struggle to see an agreement being struck with Hull City unless at least one attacker was shipped in to bolster Southampton’s attack. Only then could Southampton afford to take the gamble on allowing Rodriguez to find game time elsewhere.

But whilst we sit here discussing what is best for Rodriguez in his current situation, why exactly are we doing just that? If we think back to Rodriguez’s greatest qualities over the 2013/14 season, it was no doubt his ruthless physical approach in both attack and defence. Rodriguez used to drive with the ball in a fashion that would put fear into the oppositions defence, because they knew that even if they won the ball back, he would quickly be going shoulder to shoulder with them to regain possesion. Since then however, Rodriguez’s superb mentality has been replaced by someone who is now scared to put his body on the line, is reluctant in going for 50/50’s and doesnt charge into the box with his old effective approach.

Every last Southampton fan would love nothing more than to see the Jay Rodriguez of 2014 once again firing in red and white, but to tell the truth, the progress needed to make that happen simply isnt occuring right now. If Southampton manage to secure another attacking talent in the market and the interest from Hull is genuine, then maybe, just maybe, a deal that suits all parties can be met. Until then however, we must place faith in Puel’s selections, encourage Rodriguez at every opportunity handed to him, and most importantly, Rodriguez must push past the mental barriers that were placed before him in April 2014.


Beating the traffic: an increasingly common issue in modern football

It’s the opening day of the new Premier League season and Southampton are fighting for all three points against Watford; but as I stand amongst many proud and vocal Southampton fans that are cheering and screaming for us to dig deep, there’s a horrid sight in the corner of my eye that is becoming all too acceptable. In the dying moments of a game where all was still to play for, fans were leaving in the 85th minute.

As Southampton fan’s, we’ve had both the pain and pleasure of desperately needing every last point in recent years. Be that for the need to achieve promotion, clinch Premier League safety, or even to qualify for the Europa League,  there have been many moments where fans are left praying in the stands for that final goal. But sometimes those points don’t come along in the most comfortable fashion. In fact, sometimes those points arrive with the final kick of the game. So, as a quick reminder to those who leave early on a match day, here is a list of every goal beyond the 85th minute since Southampton’s return to the Premier League.

15th May 2016: Steven Davis 87th minute vs Crystal Palace – the final goal in a 4-1 victory

23rd April 2016: Sadio Mane 94th minute vs Aston Villa – the final goal to secure a 4-2 win

20th March 2016: Sadio Mane 86th minute vs Liverpool – the winning goal in a 3-2 win that will live long in the memory of every Southampton fan

5th March 2016: Virgil Van Dijk 93rd minute vs Sunderland – a dramatic equaliser in a 1-1 draw

23rd January 2016: Charlie Austin 87th minute vs Manchester United – a dream debut for Austin which gifted Southampton a 1-0 win

26th December 2015: Shane Long 91st minute vs Arsenal – the final late Christmas gift in a 4-0 win

25th October 2015: Sadio Mane 85th minute vs Liverpool – the equalising goal in a 1-1 draw

7th February 2015: Sadio Mane 93rd minute vs QPR – the winning goal in a 1-0 victory

18th October 2014: Patrick Van Aanholt 86th minute O.G vs Sunderland – the icing on the cake in Southampton’s incredible 8-0 win

13th September 2014: Morgan Schneiderlin 90th minute vs Newcastle – the final goal to seal a delightful 4-0 win

3rd May 2014: Rickie Lambert 90th minute vs Swansea City – a penalty to snatch a 1-0 win

29th March 2014: Jay Rodriguez 89th minute vs Newcastle United – the final goal to wrap up a 4-0 win

15th March 2014: Sam Gallagher 90th minute vs Norwich  – the final goal in a 4-2 win

9th November 2013: Steven Davis 88th minute vs Hull City – the final goal in a 4-1 win

19th October 2013: Adam Lallana 89th minute vs Manchester United – a dramatic last minute winner against the holding Champions

24th August 2013: Jose Fonte 88th minute vs Sunderland – a crucial header to grab a point in a 1-1 draw

17th August 2013: Rickie Lambert 90th minute vs WBA – the perfect way to kick start the season with a one nil win

2nd February 2013: Morgan Schneiderlin 86th minute vs Wigan Athletic – if Shaun Maloney didn’t score just minutes later, this would have wrapped up a big three points for Southampton

26th December 2012: Rickie Lambert 85th minute vs Fulham – a last minute penalty to salvage a draw in Southampton’s fight for survival

7th October 2012: Jose Fonte 90th minute vs Fulham – Fonte completes his brace to grab Southampton a point

Fact file

  • If you left in the 85th minute for every Southampton fixture since the 2012/13 season, then you would have missed 20 goals for the boys in red and white
  • Sadio Mane scored four goals beyond the 85th minute during his time at Southampton
  • 24 – the number of points that have been won by Southampton as a direct result of goal’s beyond the 85th minute since the 2012/13 season

So, with the facts of leaving early now printed in black and white, it’s clear to see that there is only one winner if you try to beat the traffic.


A tactical analysis of Claude Puel’s Southampton

It’s so nearly back. After almost two and a half months, there are now just three days left until the Premier League season is back underway and St Mary’s is once again rocking. But in Southampton’s usual fashion, they will enter the forthcoming season with multiple changes both on and off the pitch. Most notably, the managerial switch that has seen Claude Puel take over from Ronald Koeman. With pre-season now over, many Southampton fans are optimistic that we can once again defy the odds, but in truth, many just aren’t too sure on how Puel is going to do that. So, after analysing Puel’s red and white army over their six pre-season fixtures, were here to explain how.

Let’s start with the basics. Since taking over at Southampton, Puel has confidently taken to the 4-4-2 diamond formation. This formation (as shown below) holds a four man defence, a deep lying midfielder, two central midfielders ahead of the DLM, a playmaker and two strikers.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 17.52.14

Unsurprisingly, this midfield focused formation allows Puel’s side to adopt a patient style of play with the aim of keeping the ball fixed to the floor. These aims are achieved through the multiple passing triangles that are made available via the formation and player intelligence – an example of a triangle in the 4-4-2 diamond formation is the positioning of the two CB’s and the deep lying midfielder.

Puel’s aim is to ensure that these triangles continue to be formed in almost every passage of play. The simple concept of triangles in football allows for there to be a large number of passing options at all times, but it takes great understanding from each player to make it an effective means of ball retention and attacking play. When carried out effectively, this patient passing system will suddenly draw an opposition player out of position, and in that moment, the opportunity must be seized with a sudden burst of pace and movement. This concept of Puel’s will allow for some potentially beautiful and fluid football to be played at St. Mary’s stadium this season.

As for when the team isn’t in possession, the general means of recovery is through a relentless high-pressing system that ensures that the midfield diamond is always in shape – the diamond constantly shifts the midfield players about as it’s a ball-oriented system (but more on that later).

So, in the same way that Puel likes to build from the back, it seems logical that we start this analysis from the back too. Simply click onto the next page to begin the analysis.

Southampton see £6.8M bid rejected by Dynamo Zagreb

After Southampton placed a £6.8M bid for the services of Croation midfielder, Marko Rog, reports are suggesting that Dynamo Zagreb have rejected the initial offer (TheDailyStar)

On the 1st of July 2016, Southampton announced that Claude Puel will be marching the Saints into the new 2016/17 Premier League season. But with new management comes new demands, and it seems that after having the time to analyse his squad, Puel wants fresh legs in the midfield.

Rog, 21, is a versatile box-to-box midfielder that is capable of taking up a number of positions in the midfield – making him almost ideal for the style of football that Puel wants to implement at Southampton Football Club.

In Puel’s 4-4-2 diamond system there are no wide midfield players, and therefore, this demands a high work-rate and great quality from the two central midfielders. In such an intense system, reinforcements will be needed in midfield to ensure that the shape of the side is always intact.

However, whilst Puel appears keen on the Croat who forged his way into Ante Čačić’s Euro 2016 side, Zagreb are holding out for almost twice as much as Southampton’s original £6.8M bid.

With reports suggesting that Villareal and Napoli are also interested in the Southampton target, Les Reed can’t afford to waste any time if he wishes to secure the deal over such hot competition.

Be sure to tell us what you think of this possible transfer @freshsaints on Twitter!



The 2016 summer transfer window: What’s next for Southampton FC?

It’s now just 11 days until the 2016/17 Premier League season gets underway, and so far, Southampton’s business has been astute as ever. Having spent just under £26 million pounds, the South coast club have managed to secure the promising midfield star that is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, have snapped up their long-term target in Nathan Redmond, have applied pressure on Cedric with the signature of Jeremy Pied and finally, have added capable backup to Fraser Forster in Alex McCarthy. So, with Southampton now four targets down and still holding plenty of money left in the bank, where should we look to improve next?

In my opinion, Southampton Football Clubs priority should be placed on securing a player who can carry out the most important role in Claude Puel’s attacking system; the number ten. Whilst at this moment Southampton hold two players that are capable of filling this role – Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond – I believe that if Southampton want to improve on last year, they need a player that is naturally suited to this role. But what is it that’s needed in a player to make this role so effective?

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is the need for Intelligent movement. This role demands the player to persistently hunt for space and vacate areas of the pitch that give his side the best attacking option. Without this movement, counter attacks are rendered near enough useless, and unpicking a ten man defence becomes an impossible task. A player can hold all the ability they want, but if they lack the intelligent movement needed to take up the correct position, it’s almost no use at all. In the system that Puel is currently implementing at Southampton, the movement of this player is especially important as he helps to determine the positioning of the two strikers. If this key player isn’t finding the right areas, then the threat of the two forwards will most likely be nullified.

Secondly, the player must possess the ability to quite simply, put the ball in the back of the net. An asset which in truth, has been lacking from Southampton’s attacking midfielders in recent years. Due to the way that the two forwards drift wide and make runs between the channels in Puel’s 4-1-2-1-2 system, the ball will often be cut back to the number 10 – typically on the edge of the box. It is for this reason that a dangerous finisher must takes up this position. Failure to do so would be waving goodbye to some potentially crucial goals.

Whilst Tadic holds immense creative ability – the third most Premier League assists over the past two seasons in fact – he has built up the tendency to miss clear cut chances. In truth, Puel needs someone who can not only bury clear cut chances, but also creep those half chances into the corner of the goal too. As for Redmond, he’s looked very promising in this role so far, but his past would suggest that he is not yet ready to reach the required goal tally. Not to mention that this would be a position change for both Tadic and Redmond too, having spent the previous season on the wing – this adjustment would take time.

No one in Southampton’s current squad fits the number ten role to the standard that they should be aiming for. But with the acquisition of Hakim Ziyech of FC Twente or Sofiane Boufal of LOSC Lille, that problem would be no more. Both of these players are comfortable in the number 10 position, continually find space between the lines, have the ability to unlock a defence and both reached double figures in goalscoring over the 2015/16 season.

Next up? the Mane replacement. Over the past two seasons, Southampton fans have had the joy of watching Sadio Mane bare down on goal and at times, single-handedly destroy a side. In games where the opposition stands with their backs against the wall, it was so often Mane that would find the much-needed yard of space, and in times where you need a moment of brilliance to overshadow the genius of Mourinho, Klopp or Wenger, Mane was the man.

Mane’s direct and relentless style of play helped to raise the tempo in Southampton’s attack, and without him, there is no denying that we are weaker going forward. It’s damaging to lose the intensity that Mane provided and for that reason, we need a like-for-like replacement. Even more so considering that Mane would have fitted perfectly into the plans of Puel.

At this moment in time, Redmond and Long are the only players in the Southampton squad that possesses pace and the ability to operate in the channels – two attributes that are key if you want to be successful in Puel’s two man up top system. But whilst Long holds both of the above, his dribbling is far behind that of Mane’s, and while Redmond also holds the two key attributes, he has a lot to learn about playing a more central role. So, for now, we need a player that is a proven goalscorer in both wide and central areas. Perhaps Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad could fit the bill?

With that, I conclude my transfer hopes of Southampton Football Club this summer, but by no means am I saying that doing otherwise would be a failure or a disappointment  – if it’s what Puel wants and it fits his system, then I’m on board. My only demand for this window? that Claude Puel enters the season as a happy man with a team that he believes, will make Southampton Football Club progress yet again.

Talking Solly March with WeAreBrighton

For the second season running now, Southampton have been linked with Brighton and Hove Albion’s talented winger, Solly March. So, with the youngster most likely holding a place on Southampton’s list of long-term targets – rather like recent signings Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond – we decided to speak to WeAreBrighton to help you gain a better understanding of just why the club are keeping such a close watch on the England U21 International.

For fans who don’t know about Solly March, what type of player is he?
A traditional winger. He will take players on, get to the byline and get the ball in. He can also play down either side and depending on which wing he is on, can either deliver a cross or cut inside and let one go. Not to mention that he has a hell of a shot on him too.

What are March’s greatest qualities on the pitch?
Before the serious knee injury he picked up away at Derby in December, it was his pace. Whether he remains as fast after that injury will be interesting to see but he also has the ability to go past a man. A skill which in this day and age of short passing is very underrated but one that we’ve used to great effect.

Are there any areas of March’s game that can be considered a weakness or a worry?
He does seem to pick up lengthy injuries. As already noted, he hasn’t kicked a ball since mid-December, he missed three months in the middle of 2013-14 and was out for two more three-month spells at the start and end of 2014-15. Currently, he might be considered a bit too lightweight for the Premier League.

What is the general conception of March amongst Brighton fans?
He is a popular player, being one of the very few local young players we have actually managed to bring into the side successfully. We didn’t pick him up until he was 17 so to credit the Albion with his development would be a bit of a push, but everybody likes a homegrown player, especially when he is an exciting match winner like March is.

What would be your feelings toward seeing the young winger leave?
We’ve got an absolute plethora of good wide players at the minute with March alongside Anthony Knockaert, Jiri Skalak and Jamie Murphy as guys who you would expect would walk into most other teams in the Championship. So losing him wouldn’t be a total disaster. Whether it would be a good move for his career is up for debate – he is still yet to complete a full season of Championship football and would he get that opportunity in the Premier League? The bloke is clearly talented and it would be a shame for his career to stall if he moved too early to the top flight and became just a bit-part player.

What price would you be wanting for March if you were to let him go?
Young and English seems to whack an obscene amount onto the price of a player these days and with the absurd amount of money that Premier League clubs have laying around these days, you can afford to hold them to a ransom a little bit. Financially, we aren’t under any pressure to sell either so around £10m would do!

Is March ready to take on the Premier League?
He’s looked like a star in the making in the Championship, but these have only been over one or two month periods. He is yet to consistently perform at this level and I believe that he would need to do that before you could say that he is certainly ready for the Premier League.

And finally, how successful do you believe that this signing could be for Southampton?
If you could get him fit and use him correctly, he could be a good signing. The one thing that a move to Southampton has in his favour is the number of young English players who have been given their chance down there in recent seasons. Whether that continues under your new manager remains to be seen, but it is clear that March has a lot of potential – he just needs to toughen up and receive a significant run of games to realise it

That concludes our interview with WeAreBrighton, but we want to know your view on Southampton’s interest in March – be sure to let us know @freshsaints on Twitter.
Also, don’t forget to check out WeAreBrighton for all the latest news about one of our fellow South coast clubs.

Solving one of Southampton’s longest running issues

Focused and strategic youth development is in the DNA of Southampton Football club. Over the past ten years, teams have been forced to watch on in envy as technically gifted youngsters in red and white stripes school the masters of the game. But as I went to collate my strongest possible Southampton FC homegrown side, I couldn’t help but notice that in one particular area, Southampton are falling short. For a club that is always striving for perfection, this is something that must be attended to.

I’m of course referring to the lack of young talent between the sticks, and as the new season approaches, this is the perfect time for Southampton to wave goodbye to the years of holding an incapable backup keeper. At this current moment, Southampton’s first choice goalkeeper – Fraser Forster – is one of the Premier Leagues finest. But in terms of Southampton’s goalkeeping options, few are worse. Behind Southampton’s number 44, there is only one goalkeeper with first team experience – Paulo Gazzaniga. A man who in truth, is well below the standard of the Premier League and has been fortunate to receive his 22 appearances. Gazzaniga isn’t good enough now, he has shown little to prove that he can be in the future, and at the age of 24, his needs of first team football don’t match the needs of a second choice keeper. So, at this time of the season with the finances and scouting that Southampton hold, it seems the perfect time to fix this situation.

To me, another year with an ageing keeper is simply a year of high-quality training and development being put to waste. This same point is transferable if we were to once again seek the solution to our issues in the loan market too. These are attributes that simply shouldn’t be on Southampton’s checklist but sadly were last season with the acquisition of Maarten Stekelenburg. Rather than just seeing it as a gap that must be filled, I see the role of the second choice keeper as an opportunity for a young player to develop, gain valuable top-flight experience, and start following the pathway to forge their name above the number one shirt. Now that sounds suitable to the Southampton that we all know.

Not to mention that with the added benefit of England goalkeeper coach, Dave Watson, as Southampton’s goalkeeper coach, the club are far more appealing to any English youngster with hopes and dreams of representing their country in the future. This connection would not be overlooked in negotiations over the transfer of a young and talented English keeper.

There are few times that Southampton have needed to look toward another club in how to plan, innovate and strengthen over the past ten years – but perhaps Stoke City can serve as a model club for the Saints due to their fine replacement of Asmir Begovic last season.

In January 2013, Stoke City recognised that with Begovic continuing to increase his performance levels (rather like Forster), top clubs with big money would soon be circling – with that came the signing of Jack Butland on a four and a half year deal. From here, Butland was sent out on loan to a number of sides, but this came with the option for Stoke to recall the now England International whenever possible.

This proved to be an incredibly beneficial deal for all parties as whilst Begovic remained in goal for the Potters, Butland was continuing to face new situations in the Football league. Then, when Begovic was facing injury, back came a sharp and fully fit Butland to show off his development and gain some valuable top-flight experience. Through these challenges, Butland was then prepared to make the step-up when Begovic’s move to Chelsea followed through. With the combination of a smart £3.5M investment and some intelligent planning, Stoke internally sourced their new first team keeper with great pride.

As a Southampton fan who has spent years watching my club place faith in youth, I would much rather watch a young prospect stand between the sticks than to see my club take the easy way out with the signing of an experienced stopper. Even if that means it would come at the cost of numerous mistakes and learning curves. Now by no means am I saying that they must reach Butland’s level, or even that they must be English; but what I am asking, is for Southampton Football Club to match their policies for outfield players, with the men between the sticks.

Talking Pierre-Emile Højbjerg with Bayern Central

Just yesterday it was announced that after much speculation, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will be joining Southampton Football Club on a five year deal. But despite holding a promising reputation in Germany and with football experts, many Southampton fans still know little about the midfielder that Pep Guardiola once compared to Sergio Busquets. So, here at FreshSaints, we decided to speak to Bayern Central to find out more about Southampton’s newest recruit.

For fans who don’t know about Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, what type of midfielder is he?

Højbjerg is fairly versatile, but what he handles best is the traditional box to box role in central midfield. He is the kind of man who does well on the ball and provides lots of support to his teammates on both ends.

What are Højbjerg’s greatest qualities on the pitch?

The young Dane’s best asset is the passing game. His short passes on the ground are extremely accurate, even under pressure. He masters “tic tac toe” or give-and-go situations to create space and, eventually, scoring chances.

Højbjerg’s long diagonal passes to the flanks also are very accurate, something a team with good wingers can benefit from. He has a good shot from a distance, making him a free kick threat.

Are there any areas of Højbjerg’s game that can be considered a weakness or a worry?

Although 1.85 meter tall, he lacks physicality. He shields the ball well, but I wonder how he will handle the Premier League’s rougher brand of football. What about his reaction to rough challenges? Keep an eye on that.

What is the general conception of Højbjerg with Bayern Munich fans?

From my understanding, most Bayern fans hyped Højbjerg and saw him as a future midfield star. We saw glimpses of his ability for a few months during Pep Guardiola’s tenure, but he spent a lot of time on loan. Many people wanted him to come back.

What are your feelings toward seeing the young midfielder leave?

I guess his departure was inevitable. Bayern has an extremely competitive squad. Thiago Alcântara, Arturo Vidal, Javi Martínez, Xabi Alonso and Renato Sanches can all play in central midfield. The Sanches signing probably tipped the balance against Højbjerg. He is three years younger, with a similar style and more upside.

Pep Guardiola once dubbed Højbjerg as the new Sergio Busquets; what happened?

Guardiola heavily favoured Thiago, Vidal and Alonso in the middle. The three have a strong track record in all competitions. This left little room for Højbjerg, even with Martínez playing in defence, prior to Sanches’ signing. At the end of the day, Høbjerg needs to play for his career to take off.

Do you believe that the reported £12M is a good price for Southampton?

I find it surprisingly high because Bayern are known for offloading players for lower prices than most clubs, but the player has enough talent to justify it. He just needs to play and develop.

And finally, how successful do you believe that this signing could be for Southampton?

With regular playing time and a good supporting cast on the pitch, I don’t doubt he will become a fan favourite. Højbjerg is one of those skilled players whose talent should not be wasted. He’s also likeable!

That concludes our interview with Bayern Central, but we want to know your view on Southampton’s signing of Højbjerg – be sure to let us know @freshsaints on Twitter.

Also, don’t forget to check out Bayern Central for all the latest news about the German giants Bayern Munich.

Graziano Pellè: Football’s greatest celebrity

It’s now become a sad reality for many football fans that if you’re not a supporter of a select few at the top of the food chain, then your club’s greatest assets can simply be prised away from your grip at any time. Money has become the most integral factor to many footballers career decisions, and in truth, the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can remove the annoyance that we so often have to face as Southampton fans. But just earlier today, one move that was entirely financially motivated has left Southampton fans in good spirit.

We’ve seen it happen to Southampton before, and I’m certain that it will happen once again in the near future too. A player will put on the red and white stripes, proceed to captivate the fans hearts with a number of sensational performances, build up hopes of what could be, and then leave upon the prospect of adding another figure to their weekly payslip – crushing the hope and optimism of fans in the process.

During a transfer it goes without saying that ambition is important, a plan is necessary, and that history is a consideration. But however you want to dress it up, money is the greatest factor for acquiring a player in this new age of modern football. For many fans, this is a concept that they still struggle to grasp; but when Graziano Pelle’s departure to Shandong Luneng was announced, there was a distinct lack of Southampton fans questioning the Italian’s ambition and priorities. This was a change from how these same fans reacted to previous departures.

The reason being? Southampton fans have grown to love Graziano Pelle, and now know exactly what he is – a celebrity within the game.

When Pelle’ first arrived, I remember him strutting out onto the pitch with his hair styled in miraculous shape and an ego so large the spare seats in the Chapel stand had been filled.

Within just minutes of his debut, Pelle was clattering the defence, arguing with the referee and gesturing with his hands as if he were Don Corleone’s undercover agent in the Premier League. Right from that moment, I knew what Southampton were in for. Action.

From here on, Southampton fans have been treated to wonder goals, screams of passion to the stands, and a head of hair so perfect that not even for one moment has a strand been forced out of place. But this too includes handling his tantrums, moments of storming off the pitch in anger, and playing with a body language so frustrating that it will force 30,000 fans in St Mary’s to claim “Just f*cking track back Pelle!”.

There is no denying that Pelle is talented, but my god can he be frustrating, and that’s just the way he is. Every decision over his two years at Southampton was contested with full emotion, and every goal was celebrated with sheer ecstasy.

But in truth, whilst us fans will all remember Pelle for his ways on the pitch, his happiness is based off the pitch. So much so that it seems to me that Pelle simply uses his natural talent in football, to build himself the most luxurious life possible. Pelle wants the beautiful girl, the weekend getaways, the fast cars, the big cars, the mansions, the watches and the finest Italian fitted suits – Pelle’s move to China with his girlfriend will give him just that.

Sure, football has gifted Pelle some memorable moments. But he does it for his lifestyle, and to that I say, keep doing you Grazi. You carried out your time at Southampton as if it was a movie and you were the star man, so be sure to enjoy the sequel.