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Go if St Mary's is not for you says Benali
Francis Benali hopes Saints keep hold of all their key figures this summer, but insists no one person is bigger than the club.
There is concern at St Mary’s that a number of star players could depart in the coming weeks, with Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana both currently the subject of major bids from Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
Added to that, the future of the club’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, is also uncertain, with the 42-year-old representing a possible replacement for the sacked Tim Sherwood at Tottenham.
Benali says tying the Argentine to a new deal might be the most crucial piece of the puzzle, as it may help settle the future of much of the squad.
But, regardless of what happens, the former left-back says no one person is more important than the club as a whole, and if anyone doesn’t want to be at St Mary’s then they should go – providing the board can secure top dollar for them.
“Personally, I want people here who want to play for Saints and want to manage Saints,” he said.
“I experienced it as a player, when teammates made it clear they wanted to leave, and, as soon as they expressed that, I would rather they go, as long as it’s right for the club as well.”
Benali added: “It’s a team game. I’ve played with players like Matt (Le Tissier), and we’re talking about players like Adam, Rickie and Luke now, who are fabulous individuals and a huge part of the club and the team’s success, but it’s a team sport.
“No one individual makes a team, and we’ve seen it not just at Southampton, but other clubs.
“There’s been times when Beckham, Cantona, Ronaldo, guys like that, have left United.
“At the time, you almost question some decisions, but ultimately you have to move on.
“Regardless of what happens this summer with Saints, that is what will happen.
“We hope they stay and they are in a Saints shirt next year, but if they’re not for whatever reason then you get on and you move on and try and continue moving forward.”
Benali is realistic about how challenging it could be for Saints to retain some of their prize assets.
He said: “Whether they stay or go, that is football. We’ve seen it for years.
“Although we’re on a much stronger financial foundation now, everybody’s got their price.
“We’ve seen that with Gareth Bale, the money that’s been paid for him, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“If someone’s willing to pay enough then everyone’s got a price.
“Ultimately, if a player wants to leave then a deal will happen. But, from a Saints perspective, let’s hope it doesn’t.”
Benali says that, if anyone does declare a wish to leave Saints, it is vital the club ensure they get the best price possible for them.
“I think it’s crucial for the club,” he said. “If a player’s set on going, it’s only right and fair you should get the best possible deal for that player.”
However, Benali admits that, if Saints want to continue climbing the Premier League table, they must improve, not weaken, the squad this summer.
“To break through probably the ceiling we’re at at the moment, in eighth place, to go beyond that and then start challenging the top six, is one that would take huge investment and would mean keeping the kind of players we’ve got at the club at the moment, plus adding to that,” he said.
“So, if you do start losing them, it’s quite possible that it would affect your ability to be able to go and challenge from eighth place into a top-six or top-four side, so it’s going to be a crucial summer from that point of view and, depending on what happens, may determine where we will be challenging next season.”
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