Author Archives: Aidan Small

Transfer Views: Who Could Be Alderweireld’s successor?

Yesterday morning it was confirmed that Toby Alderweireld will not return to St Mary’s next season. Instead he’ll form a partnership with fellow Belgian International, Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham Hotspur. Southampton fans have become accustomed to such heartache over recent transfer windows and this was one of the more complicated examples. Now with this saga over, fans will be looking at who can fill the boots that Toby left behind.

Aleksandar Dragovic could be considered a like-for-like replacement. At just twenty three years old he has proved himself to be an incredibly smart, strong and tactically aware centre half. He has built a reputation as a tough tackling defender with technical ability in abundance. Any who have watched Dynamo Kiev, will be aware that they play a fast paced brand of football, Dragovic plays a key role in that link up between defence and attack.

Such a role can be physically demanding on a player, even more so in the Premier League. Dragovic has natural stamina and an ability to dig deep in the dying moments, lazy last minute lunges and tired legs are not a feature in his game.

It is reported that West Ham placed a £12M bid earlier this summer that was instantly rejected; they were then given a quote of £20M to acquire Dragovic’s services. However, fans should not be disheartened. As the the Hammers are known to have substantial financial backing, Kiev are no doubt looking to relieve them of a large element of those funds.

£15M should be enough to prise the Austrian away from Dynamo Kyiv.

A second option comes in the form of a man mountain, Omer Toprak. The Turkish International currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen and has built  a reputation as one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent defenders. His most notable strengths are his concentration in defence and presence at the back.

Any Southampton fan will tell you that if you wish to play under Ronald Koeman as a centre half, technical ability will be required; A great feature of Toprak’s play is comfortably bring the ball down and looking to recycle play along the floor, yet another reason why he is perfect for the spot.

Whilt most strong centre halfs lack natural pace, Toprak is an exception. This pace will avoid him being targeted early on and help him adapt to the Premier League’s fast style of play.

The 25 year old is said to be valued at £12M by Leverkusen, a bid of up to £15M could take him to St Mary’s and prove a wise investment.

The final option is Celtic’s Virgil Van Dijk. This is a player that many Southampton fans will be familiar with, having been linked to the Dutchman in previous windows. Standing at six foot four inches tall, he is a dominating and strong figure in defence, with world class distribution of the ball. These diagonal long passes have become a noted aspect in his play, as have his surging runs from deep to join the attack.

Those from Celtic Park are not the only fans who have enjoyed his style of play and performances either. Dutch fans have made it very clear they believe he should start for the first team, especially ahead of a now ageing and error prone Ron Vlaar.

Van Dijk has come to the end of his second season at Celtic earning his plaudits along the way; at 24 years old he will surely be open about taking the next step in his career, as will Celtic provided they receive a bid of over £10M.

There is no hiding the difficult task in replacing Toby Alderweireld. To find a player of his quality would prove to be a challenging task and ultimately an incredible signing. However, no matter who the signing may be, Southampton fans should feel comfortable, knowing that one of the classiest centre halves to every play the game is at the reigns of the club.

If anyone were to know who to sign, Its Ronald Koeman.

 

Gaston Ramirez: Third Time Lucky?

It appears that Gaston Ramirez will get one last chance to impress at Southampton as pre-season begins.  Having failed to impress Koeman last year, we take a look at the make or break season that is in store for the Uruguayan International.

After signing for a then club record fee of around £12 million, Ramirez had an unusual first season, being largely inconsistent. He produced 5 goals and 3 assists in 26 appearances, showing flashes of brilliance in the process. That’s considered a good block to build with for a first season in a foreign country, but when you consider the fee and the hype around the player, much more was expected. More was also expected of Ramirez when fellow South American, Mauricio Pochettino,  replaced Nigel Adkins as manager. Sadly, Pochettino failed to strike a regular tune out of Ramirez in the remaining months of the season.

The start of the 2013/14 season was looking to be a big one for Gaston, with pressure building on the Uruguayan to finally put his stamp on the Premier League. The season ended up being more of a disappointment for both Ramirez and the fans, who so loyally supported him in hope he found his best form. He only played 18 games in the Premier league that season, 8 less than the season before. The attacking midfielder managed to produce three assists and muster up just the one goal in this time; his only goal came in the form of a beautiful long range effort against Everton. In both the league and cup competitions he managed 3 goals and 4 assists, fans on the south coast were beginning to have serious doubts.

Providing worse form than his debut season, clearly he was struggling to settle. Many blamed it on the fact that he was too lightweight for the division, countless times he was simply bullied to the floor. There was also the argument that his style of play simply did not suit the Premier League, he was clearly a player that needs space and time on the ball to work his magic – something you very rarely get in England. Whatever the problem behind it, he wasn’t performing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then continued to be on the end of niggling injuries, reducing his game time. This resulted in less time to prove himself to the hopeful fans in St Marys Stadium.

A clean slate was on the table for Ramirez following the conclusion of the 2013/ 14 summer exodus, Manager Mauricio Pochettino was replaced by Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman. Koeman gave everyone the opportunity to impress during the pre-season and win a place in the squad. After a largely disappointing pre-season where Ramirez’s contribution was making up the numbers, Southampton decided to loan him out in the hope of regained form.

Ramirez chose Hull city over Sevilla… this move appeared to be financially motivated as it was later revealed Sevilla did not wish to meet his wage demands. The Uruguayans fortunes were unable to turn even when away from Southampton; Hull City were relegated and Sevilla went on to win the Europa League. Ramirez racked up just 1 goal and 3 assists in all competitions. For the third season in a row he showed decline in his game. The only impressive side that could be said is that he isn’t shying away from the premier league, be it for money or just to live up to that fee; even if he doesn’t have what it takes.

So, after consistently failing to have any sort of impact in the Premier League, why would the Saints consider keeping him on books?

The achievement of Europa League football may well be the reason. Koeman will be well aware of the impact European football can cause and the so desired depth in order to combat the busy schedule. Afterall, many fans of clubs such as Everton and Swansea have labelled the Europa League as the killer of their Premier League season. The retention of Ramirez could allow rest for the key player’s ahead of big fixtures and with good performances, who is to say he couldn’t hold his spot in the side?

The Europa League could be used as a springboard for Ramirez’s career. The opportunity is there for Ramirez and if he wished to take it, he may finally shine in the red and white stripes. It must not be forgotten that a certain Harry Kane used the competition to give Pochettino a thing or two to think about, the youngster went on to finish as the Premier League’s second top goalscorer. If he were to seize this opportunity and recreate the form in the Premier League, he could maybe, just maybe, be worthy of his £12M price tag. Either way, this would be a smart move by the club to give him one final chance. Either to increase his price tag, keep him on or just be certain the club and player gave it everything they had.

If Koeman doesn’t deem him worthy of the squad, even for Europa League, no one would blame the Dutchman. Considering his poor form since signing for the club, the board would take what they could get for him, even if that were to be a 50% hit on what was once our record transfer fee.

With the ball back in Koeman’s court, will Gaston Ramirez make it at the third time of asking?

Gossip: Alderweireld Still On, Porto Win Race For Imbula and Two Saints Set To Leave

Welcome to this weeks gossip column! Whilst Southampton’s start to the summer transfer window may not be as manic as the last, there is still top transfer news coming both in and out. Southampton have already secured the signatures of full back Cedric, forward Juanmi and the experienced  goalkeeper Steckelenburg; Who will be next to join Ronald Koeman’s red and white army?

Southampton Face Stiff Competition For Alderweireld (Express)

Many Southampton fans have hailed Toby Alderweireld as the greatest centre half to play at St Mary’s, but they will face great competition from a host of big clubs for his services. Tottenham Hotspur and Alderweireld’s current club Atletico Madrid being the main competition.

In an interview with Southampton, Koeman stated “The player likes to stay, we like to keep the player, but it’s a little difficult… I have good hope he will stay”.

This makes great reading for Southampton fans after it’s been reported the club are preparing an £18M bid, a Southampton record fee. Southampton initially held an agreed £6.3M fee for the defender but Atletico deemed him greater than that price tag, forcing them to remove the clause at a cost of £1.5M.

However, the situation continues to grow more complicated for fans on the South coast. It was revealed early Tuesday morning that Atletico’s Miranda is set for a move to Inter Milan, making Simeone all the more eager to hold onto his Belgian star.

Through all the complications and competition I am still oddly confident in Southampton securing Alderweireld, especially with a clause that forces any other club to bid £3M more than Southampton’s efforts. It would be an incredible achievement to obtain a player of such class for next seasons campaign.

Schneiderlin Replacement Set For Porto (ForzaItalianFootball)

Southampton target Imbula looks set for a €25M deal with Porto, according to L’Equipe. The frenchman is yet to make an appearance for the French senior side but has drawn comparisons to Patrick Vieira in his time at Marseille.

With 6 departures from Marseille’s first team this summer, Imbula will be eager to force this move away from the French side.

The 22 year old was considered to be the replacement for Morgan Schneidelrin, who looks set for a move to Manchester United, but attention will have to be placed elsewhere.

Clyne Is Liverpool Bound (Mirror)

Nathaniel Clyne’s imminent move to Liverpool looks all the more likely after the England International did not report back for training on monday. Reports and sightings then revealed that Clyne was undergoing his medical to become Brendan Rodgers sixth summer signing, in a deal worth £12.5M. Clyne’s transfer will pin him down on a 5 year contract at Anfield to tighten up the so often criticised Liverpool back line. Southampton have wasted no time in searching for a replacement, signing Portuguese international Cedric Soares for just £3.5M. The sporting Lisbon right back signed a four year deal on the 18th June, well in advance of Clyne’s departure.

No “Serious Bid” From Manchester United For Schneidelrin (ManchesterEveningNews)

Morgan Schneiderlin returned to Staplewood for the start of pre season with Southampton on Monday, amidst a move to Manchester United. Ronald Koeman spoke of Schneiderlin’s proposed move to Old Trafford saying “We have the situation with Morgan Schneiderlin, we will have to wait what will happen…Until now, we’ve not had a serious bid for him from Man United.”. Sky Sports reported that 10 days ago Manchester United bid for Schneiderlin, the bid was beneath the £25m expected and it was rejected. This is the transfer all Southampton fans have been dreading for quite some time, even if the club receive the £25M expected it would be some task finding a player of the same quality. The Frenchman has been the spine of our squad and unless a miracle were to happen, it seems we have seen the last of Schneiderlin.

 

Transfer Scouting: Jordy Clasie

Reports are surfacing once more regarding the transfer of Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie to Southampton in a £10m deal – So we spoke to Feyenoord season ticket holder and editor in chief of Feyenoordpings.nl., Thomas.

The Dutch central midfielder produced yet more inspiring performances in a Feyenoord side that were quite the opposite. A fourth place finish in the 2014-15 Eredivisie season was one for fans in Rotterdam to forget.

For as long as Koeman is as the reigns of the club, it seems that this potential reunion is here to stay. Even more so with the inevitable departure of Schneiderlin from Southampton.

To find out more about our potential future Saint, I spoke with Thomas who is a Feyenoord season ticket holder and editor in chief from Feyenoordpings.nl.

1) Many Southampton fans will be unfamiliar about Clasie, what are his greatest strengths and what role does he play?

– His passing and defensive work stands out best. He doesn’t need the time to think where his next pass will go, he already knows where to play it. Therefore his nickname has become ‘The Dutch Xavi’. On the rare occasion he does lose possession, he will fight and do everything to get it back. His role at Feyenoord is to dominate the midfield,  this involves the defence looking to instantly play the ball into Clasie. The Dutch international will then look to push further up the pitch and get the team into an attacking position. However, this has also damaged his personal records. As he is so key in the centre of midfield (Like Xavi) he has just scored just 2 goals last season in 31 matches. That’s not enough.

2) What does the recent incoming of Vejinovic mean for Clasie?

– It means Feyenoord could be open to a move for Clasie. The new boss, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, admitted that if Clasie leaves, his successor is already in the club with Vejinovic. Although, they can play together as well as a partnership. The two differ in their play styles as Vejinovic is more offensive.

3) Will the under achieving season under now sacked Fred Rutten push Clasie for a move?

– Yes it could, Feyenoord haven’t qualified for European football next season so many fans would understand if the captain wished to move. However, Clasie should look to his friends Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum… They stayed for one more season at PSV to help the club win the Eredivisie title. As a result, Depay has left for Manchester United and Wijnaldum will also find himself a good club. This could therefore be a motive for Clasie to stay at Feyenoord. The club are certainly aiming for this after gaining the services of former Liverpool man Dirk Kuyt for the upcoming season.

4) Clasie has made 12 appearances for the Dutch national side, how has he performed at International level?

– In the Dutch squad he has a lot of competition in the midfield. Former Holland coach Louis van Gaal liked him, but Guus Hiddink did not look impressed by the Feyenoord captain. Hiddink (sacked by the Dutch FA on monday) had his midfield positions clear: Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum. Only in the final games did Hiddink look to change the squad, but Clasie withdrew himself due to illness.

5) What can you tell us about the relationship between Clasie and Koeman?

– This is a very good one. Before Koeman’s arrival in 2011 at Feyenoord, Clasie spent a year on loan at Excelsior. When Koeman arrived at Feyenoord, he got Clasie back in the squad. Straight from the beginning he believed in Clasie’s ability, despite his lack of strength. Since the arrival of Koeman, Clasie went on to play every match. You could say that Koeman ‘made him’. When Pellè and Koeman left for Southampton, Clasie was made the new captain of the team.

6) Reports have suggested Southampton wish to bid £10M for the Dutchman, is that worthy of his ability?

– After the summer transfer window last year Clasie extended his contract until 2018. A little bit earlier in that summer, his contract was expiring in 2016 and FC Porto really wanted him. However, they didn’t want to meet Feyenoord’s asking price of €10m (around £7,12m). Now he has extended his contract, Feyenoord will ask for more. Whether he’s worth it? Thats difficult to say. Koeman worked with him for three years, he would know Clasie’s true worth. I expect Southampton will try to pick him up for less than what Feyenoord want, Dutch reports say Feyenoord are looking for €18m (around £12,82m). I personally don’t see any club paying that. £10m will be a decent price.

7) Finally, how do you believe Clasie would cope with a move to the Premier League and more specifically, Southampton?

– That’s a good question. He will not easily fill the reported space of Schneiderlin simply because he is a different type of player. For Southampton I have no doubt he would be a good signing. Despite his short height (1,69 m), he can adapt to the speed of the English game. In addition, he’s just 24 years old so could be ready to take the next step up at Southampton if they push for European football success and repeat the ranking in the league like last season.

 

Many thanks from FreshSaints to Thomas for making this piece possible.