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Could Saints be following the Swansea way?
DAVID Moyes might have hit the nail firmly on the head.
Previewing last Monday’s game at St Mary’s, the Everton boss was asked for his thoughts on Mauricio Pottechino’s arrival at Saints.
The canny Scot quickly brought up the example of Michael Laudrup’s appointment by Swansea last summer.
“You can see it’s helped Swansea with Michael coming in,” Moyes said.
“It’s given them an opportunity to have a little bit of a headstart on players at the lower level who could possibly step up.
“I would expect him (Pochettino) to be very much the same.”
And I would expect Moyes is not far from the truth.
Laudrup’s signing of Michu from La Liga club Real Vallecano last summer is being widely held up as the Premier League’s best signing of 2012/13.
For a cut price £2m, he has scored 16 league and cup goals this season.
In terms of value for money, compare his record to someone like Jay Rodriguez, who cost Saints three times as much.
But Laudrup has made other canny signings from Spain, where he went head to head against Pochettino last season as Mallorca manager.
Winger Pablo Hernandez was brought in from Villareal for £5.5m, while the Welsh club spent another £2m on centre half Chico, who played under Laudrup at Mallorca last season while on loan from Italian club Genoa.
Another of Laudrup’s signings was attacking midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, who is on loan from another La Liga club, Villareal.
The Dutchman is on a season long loan at The Liberty Stadium, after being deemed surplus to requirements by Villareal a year after they paid £6m for him.
Swansea’s fans were no doubt concerned that Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Anfield might have ended the club’s meteoric rise of the last decade.
But they reckoned without chairman Huw Jenkins, and his ability to make inspirational managerial appointments.
We are only in January but already Swansea are safe from relegation, and through to a first ever League Cup final to boot.
They have done it playing good football and winning friends.
And they have done it with a La Liga influence.
Saints fans will be hoping Nicola Cortese’s latest appointment turns out to be as inspirational as Jenkins’ last one.
On the face of it, the comparison between Swansea and Saints is a good one.
Granted, Saints are a bigger club – far more impressive history and tradition, bigger fanbase, far bigger stadium, better academy.
And unlike the Swans, Saints weren’t very nearly relegated to the Conference in 2003.
Saints have come a long way in a short space of time, but Swansea have come further.
Their success story is a phenomenal one, and Saints have yet to equal it.
Nowadays, though, both the Swans and Saints are among a group of Premier League clubs aiming for a Europa League slot.
If not this season for Saints, then possibly in a few years’ time if they stay up this season (and lest we forget, it remains an ‘if’ at present).
The ruthlessly ambitious Cortese might be eyeing the Champions League by then, but let’s be more realistic here.
The kind of player Pochettino is almost certainly likely to be targeting is not that different to the sort of player brought in by Laudrup.
Pochettino, like his Swansea counterpart, will know La Liga well.
And we’re not talking some minor European league here. We are talking the league which has produced the players that have won the last two European Championships and the last World Cup.
Pochettino will have a good idea which players could impress in the Premier League, while fitting in with Saints’ budget and template for potential signings.
“Obviously first of all we will be looking at players coming through the academy,” Pochettino admitted last week.
“Beyond that, Spain is obviously a market I know better than any other and is rich with talent.”
Based on the fact that players coming through the academy won’t be instantly challenging for the first team, that means La Liga is likely to be Pochettino’s first call.
Laudrup has made a succession of signings around the £2 to £5m bracket, and I would imagine Pottechino will do likewise.
Saints, like Swansea, do not have the resources to make many Gaston Ramirez-type signings.
I would not be surprised if Pochettino oversees the arrival of £2m-£5m price range purchases from La Liga.
That has to be the way Saints are now going.
Otherwise, why bring Pochettino in.
Saints’ rise through the third and second tiers was based around English players.
Down in League 1, the only continental flair was provided by Jose Fonte, Papa Waigo and Guly.
Now, all of a sudden, Saints are a league of nations again.
Heard the one about the Pole, the Argentine, the Norwegian, the Dutchman, the Portuguese, two Japanese, the Belgian, the Brazilian, the Frenchman, the Uruguyan and the Zambian aiming to keep their English club in the Premier League?
Helping them to do that will be two Argentinian coaches and two Spanish coaches, overseen by an Italian chairman?
That’s not a joke, it’s the cosmopolitan nature of Saints these days.
You could also throw a Bajan into the cultural melting pot, but I can’t see Jonathan Forte getting too much of a look-in at St Mary’s these days, can you?
Some fans might bemoan the growing foreign influence at St Mary’s, but this is the Premier League we are talking about.
I don’t see many Swansea fans protesting that they don’t have enough players born in Port Talbot or Neath in their squad.
Look at many Premier League squads these days, and they have lots of foreigners.
Look at Wigan.
They have seven Spaniards, two Hondurans, a Paraguayan, a Chilean, an Argentine, a Slovakian and an Omani in their squad.
The landscape of the Premier League with regards to overseas players has not really changed in the last decade.
Managers are more likely to go abroad to sign experienced players – quite often internationals – for far less money than if they tried to sign an English-type equivalent.
Pochettino could probably sign an international striker from Spain or elsewhere in continental Europe cheaper than Charlie Austin at Burnley, for example, would cost.
Saints supporters would no doubt prefer Pochettino to sprinkle his squad with a handful of Michu-like signings, with a La Liga pedigree to their name, rather than dip into the Championship and pay £5m plus for unproven players at top flight level.
Never thought I’d say it, but Swansea are a great template for Southampton Football Club to follow.