ANOTHER day, another bombshell announcement from a Saints player akin to a knife through the heart of everyone who loves the club.
First off, fans had to listen to Adam Lallana last week revealing he was dreaming of playing for Liverpool in the last few weeks of the 2013/14 season when he should have been concentrating 100 per cent on captaining the club that paid his wages.
If that was bad enough, yesterday wantaway centre half Dejan Lovren spoke even more astonishing words.
He added: “Look, I’d gladly stay in Southampton if the club had any ambitions, if they kept the key players.
“[If that had happened] not even the Liverpool bid would have dissuaded me.”
The Croatian, unspectacular in the World Cup where his country went out at the group stage, also claimed he knew Pochettino was leaving in April.
Lovren’s comments regarding his desire to follow Rickie Lambert and Lallana to Liverpool raise more questions than they answer.
To start with, what “assurances” did Cortese give him?
That Saints, a club preparing to start only their second Premier League season since 2005, would seriously challenge for the Champions League places within one or two years?
Was Cortese really telling new signings that he was confident Saints could reach the top four – despite finishing over 30 points adrift of that group in 2012/13?
Even last season, when Saints finished eighth, they were as many points adrift of fourth placed Arsenal (23) as they were above third from bottom Norwich.
To put more bluntly, Saints were as close to the relegation area in 2013/14 as they were to the Champions League places.
And that was with a squad generally lauded as the best in the club’s Premier League history!
Crystal Palace were closer to Saints in points than Saints were to the club that finished two places above them, Tottenham.
Did Dani Osvaldo and Victor Wanyama sign for Saints because they, too, were told that the Champions League was a realistic prospect for a club that a few years earlier were playing in the third division?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing ambition, but in the Premier League it has to be tempered with a healthy dose of realism.
Secondly, what does Lovren mean when he says “look, I’d gladly stay in Southampton if the club had any ambitions, if they kept the key players.”
For Goodness sake, the club have just appointed Ronald Koeman as manager, a legend with a far better footballing CV – both as a player and a manager – than the now eulogised Pochettino turned up at St Mary’s clutching.
Koeman is respected worldwide as one of the best centre halves of the last 30 years.
Lovren is a centre half, and not one that is yet good enough to lace Koeman’s boots as a player.
To come out with the nonsense he has, without even having met his new manager yet, shows a phenomenal lack of respect that is genuinely shocking.
“If the club had any ambitions.”
What does he mean?
They have spent many millions on updating their training base at Staplewood, in addition to almost £70m on new players in two years.
They have just appointed the biggest name manager in their history.
The players leaving St Mary’s are not signing for West Ham or Stoke City.
They are signing for Liverpool and Manchester United, two of the biggest names in world football, the two most successful English clubs ever.
“If they kept the key players.”
Manchester United could not keep their “key player” when they sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid.
Arsenal cannot keep their “key players” when clubs with more money come calling.
Liverpool cannot keep their “key player” when Barcelona offer £70m.
Big clubs, far bigger clubs than Saints, cannot keep their “key players” all the time.
So does Dejan Lovren sit on his sofa thinking ‘I wonder why Southampton cannot keep their top players when Manchester United and Liverpool are keen to sign them? It must show a lack of ambition.’ If he does think that, then he is by far the most deluded footballer to ever pull on the club’s shirt, as well as a foreign mercenary showing a disgraceful lack of respect to his employers.
Is Lovren freely playing the ‘lack of ambition’ card to mask his own greed, because Liverpool can obviously pay him more than Saints can?
If he was so keen to play in the Champions League, then why leave Lyon (where he had played CL football) in the summer of 2013 and sign for a club that had just finished 14th in the Premier League?
Answer that one, Dejan.
As always with Saints, it is fascinating to read the comments by fans on the Echo’s own website.
Lovren cannot be surprised – or perhaps he is, who knows? – by the torrent of abuse he received online yesterday.
There is also the line of thought being peddled by some fans that this exodus would never have happened had Cortese stayed as chairman.
Cortese himself said as much when he gave a rare interview a few months ago.
Of course, we will never know whether Lambert, Shaw and Lallana would have left within weeks of each other, and whether Lovren and Morgan Schneiderlin will also depart, had Cortese stayed.
It seems unlikely, though.
You cannot tell me Luke Shaw would have turned down a move to Old Trafford just because Nicola Cortese was Saints’ chairman.
Are we really to believe that Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana would have preferred to stay at St Mary’s rather than move to Anfield?
Perhaps I’m doing them a disservice, though. Perhaps they would have stayed put.
In which case Cortese would have deservedly been acclaimed as some kind of footballing alchemist.
But I don’t know for certain.
Nobody knows for certain, apart from the players and none of them have yet said ‘I would have stayed had Cortese still been chairman’.
Don’t hold your breath. None of them will say that.
Let us not rewrite history just yet to say that Nicola Cortese leaving was the catalyst for Saints’ phoenix-like post-administration revival to shatter into several thousand pieces.
Not until Ronald Koeman has had a chance to show what he can do with the millions banked from selling players who did not want to be at St Mary’s any more.