COMMENT: Lesson Saints must learn from Cortese

Basingstoke Gazette: Mauricio Pochettino Mauricio Pochettino

As Nicola Cortese reflects on his departure from Saints he may well be wondering if those who accepted his resignation have walked into a trap he has learned to avoid through bitter experience.

Just three months ago Cortese was dining at football’s top table, invited to be a guest speaker at the Leaders in Sport conference.

It’s a highly prestigious affair, and was a rare public outing for Cortese, a man who very much kept himself to himself.

He revealed a lot about his mentality, and his general approach to life at Saints in one answer.

Cortese was asked about the decision to remove a highly successful manager in Nigel Adkins, immediately appointing Mauricio Pochettino.

Not only did people feel Adkins was harshly treated given his record of success at Saints, but also appointing somebody straightaway proved it was a cold and calculating move lined up while the former manager was still working hard.

Cortese’s explanation was simple.

“I remember when we changed with Alan Pardew it took about three weeks before we got a manager in,” said Cortese in front of a specially invited audience.

“On the first day everybody said, ‘It is a stupid decision to make that change if you’ve not got anyone.

“Two years later you do the change and have someone lined up and it was controversial and a cruel decision.

“We changed managers on the back of good results and people say ‘Why do you change now?’, especially in Nigel’s case as we came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 [against Chelsea] at Stamford Bridge.

“But this is progress, especially when you have someone lined up. The decision has been taken beforehand and maybe a lot of people will say ‘Let’s wait now’, but we thought it was the right time to do it. I always planned in advance exactly the day I was going to do it.

“I think, to be honest, looking at those two scenarios, if one day I was in a similar situation again I would do it the same way again.”

Cortese learned a valuable lesson, one which he may feel his former employers are about to discover.

The inevitable question in football – a sport so fickle that ‘the King is dead, long live the King’ is almost an understatement – is always ‘what now?’ The truth is nobody knows. And that’s exactly the problem – it seems nobody quite knows.

In the same way that Pardew’s departure and the failure to replace him immediately left a power vacuum that sucked all into it, so too is there a gap at the very helm of Saints now.

Katharina Liebherr is non-executive chairman but is not there to run the business day to day. The search for a chief executive seems to have just started.

All this during a transfer window when there are big clubs circling for star players and with a manager who has previously stated he would leave if Cortese did. Whatever anybody’s opinions on the rights and wrongs of Cortese’s departure, that vacuum must be filled very quickly indeed, otherwise you can easily imagine things spiralling out of control.

Yesterday was another remarkable day for Saints.

Who woke up on Wednesday morning seriously expecting to be ending the day worrying about the future of the club?

It was a day that started with them still ninth in the Premier League and looking upwards.

Of course, nothing should ever surprise us about this club.

Just as those few, chaotic years of behind the scenes infighting and upheaval that preceded the 2009 takeover by Markus Liebherr and Cortese were about as eventful as you could ever see, so it seems the stability which appeared to be in place wasn’t really there at all. Even after those quit threats in May had dissipated, things weren’t right and it turns out Cortese’s resignation had been on the table for months, with discussions on the way forward for the club seemingly at an impasse.

What a sad ending.

Cortese was a divisive figure at the club, but a successful one.

It’s not exactly speaking out of turn to suggest he put some noses out of joint – former players, managers, staff, even this paper, who he banned for two and a half years before peace broke out earlier this season.

But for all that, you have to admire the job he did, and what he achieved.

It might not have been his money that funded it, but he took Saints from administration through two promotions, a JPT win at Wembley and to ninth in the Premier League.

He and Markus brought hope where previously there was only fear.

And what’s worse is the future looked brighter for Saints than any fan would have dared dreamed it might do when Cortese and Liebherr first rolled into town.

So, again, what now?

The future of Mauricio Pochettino is of course the first thing to be sorted.

He has been a really good manager, and it would be terrible to see him leave.

But, that said, if he isn’t fully committed then it is better he goes sooner than later as him hanging around half heartedly, not something you can really imagine him doing, doesn’t do anyone any good.

If he does go we will all be sad, of course, but another King will soon be born.

As for the talk about player sales, maybe a few might well question their futures if Pochettino goes but, though a lot of the players were fond of Cortese, history hasn’t shown many that have ever left a club because the chairman quit. Of greater long term concern are the reports that Katharina Liebherr might be looking to sell the club.

In themselves they should not be a surprise.

Though Saints fans have attempted to blindly hope, the reality was always that this was Markus’ baby, not hers, and the value of a club purchased for around £14m is probably now over £100m.

If you inherited a business miles away and had the chance for that money, wouldn’t you be tempted to sell it?

Katharina’s business advisors would surely also point out that the club is at about peak value.

All right, you could invest another £100m plus to try and get to the next stage, but it’s by no means a guarantee of that, and even then it’s still not a great risk-reward ratio.

The only thing her advisors might not have reckoned upon is that if problems do arise from this instability then the value could go down.

Whatever the truth it is paramount that going forward Saints have owners that care for and respect the club and are committed to it in the long term.

So, as Cortese departs the scene, how will history remember him?

An enigma.

A guy who appeared ruthless and uncaring at times, but also engendered some close bonds with players and managers.

A man who knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it.

A chairman who shunned the limelight and black tie dinner circuit so beloved of some of his predecessors in favour of a place in the background, yet still made enemies as frequently as friends.

Perhaps somebody who was a perfectionist, almost to a fault – all those fans who always used to say ‘that’s far too lowly a decision for Cortese to have made’ were almost exclusively wrong.

But, ultimately, an executive chairman who helped lead the club from its lowest ever ebb to one of its highest, in the space of just over four years.

His place in history is secured.

Probably the best way to sum up his legacy is that there will be some mourning his departure, and others celebrating it. But if he is not replaced quickly, Cortese himself knows that his achievements might seem even better.

Comments (19)

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7:21am Thu 16 Jan 14

Saint. says...

Knock yourself out DE!
Knock yourself out DE! Saint.

7:26am Thu 16 Jan 14

miltonarcher says...

It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.
It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism. miltonarcher

7:29am Thu 16 Jan 14

Positively4thStreet says...

Still think it might be a bluff with an ulterior motive..Cortese knows what he's doing.
Still think it might be a bluff with an ulterior motive..Cortese knows what he's doing. Positively4thStreet

7:49am Thu 16 Jan 14

milton road says...

He was a man with a vision which was good for the fans and club and went a remarkable way to achieving it.

Value is pure speculation for the club and the nationals have it in access
150 million which was what Fulham was sold for. We have over 150 million in player talent alone. let alone the infrastructure. With a stadium at full value and new training facilities that combined must be worth near 90 million in this market.

Maybe Cortese will find a chairmanship in another club. Maybe he will head a bid to buy Southampton who knows.

At the moment Poch is the key, if he goes then the training staff he brought with him are liable to go. Which means the whole management structure is gone.

I hope sense prevails and Poch at least gives it to the end of the season. Hope he doesn't go at all.
He was a man with a vision which was good for the fans and club and went a remarkable way to achieving it. Value is pure speculation for the club and the nationals have it in access 150 million which was what Fulham was sold for. We have over 150 million in player talent alone. let alone the infrastructure. With a stadium at full value and new training facilities that combined must be worth near 90 million in this market. Maybe Cortese will find a chairmanship in another club. Maybe he will head a bid to buy Southampton who knows. At the moment Poch is the key, if he goes then the training staff he brought with him are liable to go. Which means the whole management structure is gone. I hope sense prevails and Poch at least gives it to the end of the season. Hope he doesn't go at all. milton road

8:06am Thu 16 Jan 14

Sally Hamilton Original says...

Positively4thStreet wrote:
Still think it might be a bluff with an ulterior motive..Cortese knows what he's doing.
God I hope you are right!
[quote][p][bold]Positively4thStreet[/bold] wrote: Still think it might be a bluff with an ulterior motive..Cortese knows what he's doing.[/p][/quote]God I hope you are right! Sally Hamilton Original

8:26am Thu 16 Jan 14

Santa Retfordia says...

Nice article. Unsentimental but bang on about the job Nicola's done here. It's sad that, as in so many other ways, people only really show their appreciation to someone when they're gone.

But so be it. Nicola wouldn't have spent a second sitting around moping about someone's departure - he'd have got on with his job and that's what we need to do, starting this Saturday in Sunderland.
Nice article. Unsentimental but bang on about the job Nicola's done here. It's sad that, as in so many other ways, people only really show their appreciation to someone when they're gone. But so be it. Nicola wouldn't have spent a second sitting around moping about someone's departure - he'd have got on with his job and that's what we need to do, starting this Saturday in Sunderland. Santa Retfordia

8:29am Thu 16 Jan 14

johnlennonar says...

miltonarcher wrote:
It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.
There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect.
[quote][p][bold]miltonarcher[/bold] wrote: It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.[/p][/quote]There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect. johnlennonar

8:42am Thu 16 Jan 14

mustique says...

No one has mentioned the Italian connection that started all this
No one has mentioned the Italian connection that started all this mustique

9:17am Thu 16 Jan 14

Blackwaterblue says...

Don't panic! These are minor problems and will get sorted in time. Mind you, if the club is really for sale we could give you a few names!!!!!!!!!
Don't panic! These are minor problems and will get sorted in time. Mind you, if the club is really for sale we could give you a few names!!!!!!!!! Blackwaterblue

9:17am Thu 16 Jan 14

Bpl333 says...

hh
hh Bpl333

9:21am Thu 16 Jan 14

Bpl333 says...

Bpl333 wrote:
hh
Hi as a Bmth fan im not on here to have dig or anything...

i think the reality of when you have a sugar daddy type owner, then these things are a real possibility if they get bored or lose interested ie your owners...

you could end up being brought by another sugar daddy who knows...

The best models i think to follow is the german model, where the fans own the club and it is not owned by one person which would adds no certain stability.....
[quote][p][bold]Bpl333[/bold] wrote: hh[/p][/quote]Hi as a Bmth fan im not on here to have dig or anything... i think the reality of when you have a sugar daddy type owner, then these things are a real possibility if they get bored or lose interested ie your owners... you could end up being brought by another sugar daddy who knows... The best models i think to follow is the german model, where the fans own the club and it is not owned by one person which would adds no certain stability..... Bpl333

9:27am Thu 16 Jan 14

Malcombe says...

Not sure if If I'm making this up but could it be that Katharina told Cortese in September that she wants to sell the Club (and at £90million who can blame her for the increase in value) and he threw his arms up in the air and said well that's it for me too, seems I'm wasting my time with all the energy I giving to move the Club onwards and upwards, or is it a clash of personalities?
I can enlighten Supporters with a bit of gossip I heard recently, it came from a female who got it 2nd hand and she was told this about Cortese. A regular Cleaner at The Club was told to clean his Office any time that day as Cortese would not be in the Office, totally unexpected he arrive and went to his Office and the Cleaner was cleaning it, he then ripped her head off for being there when he wanted to use the Office, she explained she was only working to instructions and that he wouldn't be in that day, he didn't excuse her and reduced her to tears, the Cleaner said to others that he's not as sweet faced as he looks and at times he thinks he's God and not a nice person to work for.

I'm not suggesting I believe it but we all know that sometimes snippets do creep out be it true or false, all I want is the Manager and his Staff and all the Players to stay because I felt Saints were about to embark on a good roll of results COYR
Not sure if If I'm making this up but could it be that Katharina told Cortese in September that she wants to sell the Club (and at £90million who can blame her for the increase in value) and he threw his arms up in the air and said well that's it for me too, seems I'm wasting my time with all the energy I giving to move the Club onwards and upwards, or is it a clash of personalities? I can enlighten Supporters with a bit of gossip I heard recently, it came from a female who got it 2nd hand and she was told this about Cortese. A regular Cleaner at The Club was told to clean his Office any time that day as Cortese would not be in the Office, totally unexpected he arrive and went to his Office and the Cleaner was cleaning it, he then ripped her head off for being there when he wanted to use the Office, she explained she was only working to instructions and that he wouldn't be in that day, he didn't excuse her and reduced her to tears, the Cleaner said to others that he's not as sweet faced as he looks and at times he thinks he's God and not a nice person to work for. I'm not suggesting I believe it but we all know that sometimes snippets do creep out be it true or false, all I want is the Manager and his Staff and all the Players to stay because I felt Saints were about to embark on a good roll of results COYR Malcombe

9:29am Thu 16 Jan 14

Saintlee72 says...

The best thing for Saints right now? Nicola Cortese gets a consortium together from his little black book of wealthy Swiss bankers, comes back in to buy the club and realises his dream and vision of making Saints a force in world football. He had a meeting with MP last night and hopefully Nicola told him of his plans. Wouldn't that be great !!!!!!
What I can't get my head around is the fact that if Ms Liebheirr knows nothing about football, then why is she insisting on a place on the board? What the fu*k is she playing at?
Same old Saints. Great club, but we do have a tendancy to self-destruct.
The best thing for Saints right now? Nicola Cortese gets a consortium together from his little black book of wealthy Swiss bankers, comes back in to buy the club and realises his dream and vision of making Saints a force in world football. He had a meeting with MP last night and hopefully Nicola told him of his plans. Wouldn't that be great !!!!!! What I can't get my head around is the fact that if Ms Liebheirr knows nothing about football, then why is she insisting on a place on the board? What the fu*k is she playing at? Same old Saints. Great club, but we do have a tendancy to self-destruct. Saintlee72

9:34am Thu 16 Jan 14

miltonarcher says...

johnlennonar wrote:
miltonarcher wrote:
It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.
There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect.
Shame you cant debate this in a rational way, I guess that is down to your level of intelligence. Anyway, it was the money of Marcus that saved this club. NC is the CEO, he has not put a penny of his own money in, he is a banker nothing more nothing less. Nigel Adkins and the players got us back to back promotions, it was success on the pitch that got us into the Prem. Yes, NC made some good decisions, he also made some mistakes. But there is too much emphasis being placed on the role of the CEO.
[quote][p][bold]johnlennonar[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]miltonarcher[/bold] wrote: It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.[/p][/quote]There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect.[/p][/quote]Shame you cant debate this in a rational way, I guess that is down to your level of intelligence. Anyway, it was the money of Marcus that saved this club. NC is the CEO, he has not put a penny of his own money in, he is a banker nothing more nothing less. Nigel Adkins and the players got us back to back promotions, it was success on the pitch that got us into the Prem. Yes, NC made some good decisions, he also made some mistakes. But there is too much emphasis being placed on the role of the CEO. miltonarcher

9:38am Thu 16 Jan 14

NC Fan4Life says...

Katharina honored Marcus five year investment which is nearing its end and the objective has been achieved, therefore don't need to put in any more investment as they don't have any interest in football. NC has left as it is clear that his future plans will not be matched. So what now ?
Will the new CEO be a puppet to oversee the sell/asset strip ?
Will NC head up a group to buy the club ? or will he take up the position at Inter Milan and take MP with him ?
Will there be a fire sell of our best players leading to a meltdown again ?
Or will Katharina just continue as is ?
One thing that is likely that, we the fans, will not be told.
Katharina honored Marcus five year investment which is nearing its end and the objective has been achieved, therefore don't need to put in any more investment as they don't have any interest in football. NC has left as it is clear that his future plans will not be matched. So what now ? Will the new CEO be a puppet to oversee the sell/asset strip ? Will NC head up a group to buy the club ? or will he take up the position at Inter Milan and take MP with him ? Will there be a fire sell of our best players leading to a meltdown again ? Or will Katharina just continue as is ? One thing that is likely that, we the fans, will not be told. NC Fan4Life

10:18am Thu 16 Jan 14

NC Fan4Life says...

Lets be realistic, the club is now at arguably its highest value and to take us to the next level as NC wanted would be too big an investment for Katharina/advisers too make. So NC decided to resign as his vision would not be backed but to stay on hopefully while other plans are put into place. NC is not an easy man to deal with and there was probably a personality clash, he was released from his position with other Mali companies last year.
Katharina will either appoint a new to CEO to continue as is because she will not want the value to fall, but is likely to appoint one to oversee the sell of the club. Actions over the next 2 to 3 weeks will give us an indication.
As fans, we may not be told truth but the roller coaster continues !!
Lets be realistic, the club is now at arguably its highest value and to take us to the next level as NC wanted would be too big an investment for Katharina/advisers too make. So NC decided to resign as his vision would not be backed but to stay on hopefully while other plans are put into place. NC is not an easy man to deal with and there was probably a personality clash, he was released from his position with other Mali companies last year. Katharina will either appoint a new to CEO to continue as is because she will not want the value to fall, but is likely to appoint one to oversee the sell of the club. Actions over the next 2 to 3 weeks will give us an indication. As fans, we may not be told truth but the roller coaster continues !! NC Fan4Life

11:47am Thu 16 Jan 14

kevmsmith81 says...

Naturally, this is going to be a worrying time. Love him or hate him (and there was plenty about his manner to dislike), he got things done. He was very focused and had a real vision about what he wanted.

I've been very critical of certain things he's done, but I think his moving on will be a big loss for Southampton.
Naturally, this is going to be a worrying time. Love him or hate him (and there was plenty about his manner to dislike), he got things done. He was very focused and had a real vision about what he wanted. I've been very critical of certain things he's done, but I think his moving on will be a big loss for Southampton. kevmsmith81

12:17pm Thu 16 Jan 14

lowe esteem says...

miltonarcher wrote:
johnlennonar wrote:
miltonarcher wrote:
It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.
There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect.
Shame you cant debate this in a rational way, I guess that is down to your level of intelligence. Anyway, it was the money of Marcus that saved this club. NC is the CEO, he has not put a penny of his own money in, he is a banker nothing more nothing less. Nigel Adkins and the players got us back to back promotions, it was success on the pitch that got us into the Prem. Yes, NC made some good decisions, he also made some mistakes. But there is too much emphasis being placed on the role of the CEO.
None of what you have said is wrong, like me, you probably didn't want this inevitable scenario, and have taken a very measured view, and there is nothing to suggest you are a prat.

An apology from the knee-jerk kid wouldn't go amiss.
[quote][p][bold]miltonarcher[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]johnlennonar[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]miltonarcher[/bold] wrote: It was the players on the pitch and Nigel Adkins that got this club into the premier league. There is too much credit going to a man who never kicked a ball for us, let's have a sense of realism.[/p][/quote]There would not even be a Southampton football club without this man you stupid prat. Show some bloody respect.[/p][/quote]Shame you cant debate this in a rational way, I guess that is down to your level of intelligence. Anyway, it was the money of Marcus that saved this club. NC is the CEO, he has not put a penny of his own money in, he is a banker nothing more nothing less. Nigel Adkins and the players got us back to back promotions, it was success on the pitch that got us into the Prem. Yes, NC made some good decisions, he also made some mistakes. But there is too much emphasis being placed on the role of the CEO.[/p][/quote]None of what you have said is wrong, like me, you probably didn't want this inevitable scenario, and have taken a very measured view, and there is nothing to suggest you are a prat. An apology from the knee-jerk kid wouldn't go amiss. lowe esteem

6:14pm Thu 16 Jan 14

Exiled Saint - front line eastern outpost of Gosport says...

He will be back as a front for a new consortium. He's not daft.
He will be back as a front for a new consortium. He's not daft. Exiled Saint - front line eastern outpost of Gosport

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