Luke Shaw’s move to Manchester United and Adam Lallana’s to Liverpool is a reality check for Saints fans, but could still work out for the best.
Firstly, for the depressing news. Saints remain a selling club, because that is the reality of modern day football.
They did not need the money for Shaw or Lallana, but when a player these days says they want to leave and a big side desperately wants to sign them, they inevitably go.
It’s not a nice fact of football, but the contracts signed by players these days are virtually worthless.
It’s why, when you hear of a star player signing a new five-year deal, you should see it merely as a nice pay rise for them rather than a statement about their future at the club.
Saints’ place in the pecking order of football is underlined by these moves.
In the same way as when Saints were in League One it seemed perfectly logical that Rickie Lambert would want to leave Bristol Rovers to move to St Mary’s, even though the sides were in the same division, the same goes for Shaw to United and Lallana to Liverpool.
They are huge moves to genuinely massive clubs, worth a lot of money to them personally, and a chance to go on and try and win silverware.
We might well see the same thing happen with Dejan Lovren as well this summer. Certainly the wheels are in motion.
And now for the good news.
United have paid Saints a lot of money for the privilege of signing Shaw.
Liverpool are coughing up a reasonable fee too, but with the sell on clause to Bournemouth probably not as much as Saints fans would hope for their captain. In terms of Shaw, if you do not have limitless transfer funds then a club like Saints probably need three players in around the £10m bracket more than they need one £27m left back. Having a fantastic left back is nice, but not essential if you are Saints.
If you are competing for the title and to win the Champions League then you have to strive for the very best in every single position.
Saints can get away with merely a good left back, and they can cost probably £7m-£10m. And with Saints having Matt Targett waiting in the wings too, it leaves a lot of cash for reinvestment.
As for Lallana, that is arguably more of a blow.
Not only was he a leader as captain and probably the star player, but he also represented something about Saints as a whole. His departure does feel like the end of an era, even if most reasonable fans won’t begrudge him his chance at the big time after being with the club for 14 years. Les Reed has already said all funds from player sales will be spent on squad strengthening.
It will also be interesting to hear from Ronald Koeman, when he starts work properly next week, for his take on the whole situation. He must surely have been involved in the background of these deals.
In Saints’ defence, they have done the right thing.
It may not be very palatable to lose a bunch of star players, but if you are resigned to them leaving then moving them on sooner rather than later is always better. There was an acceptance at the club even in November and December last year that Shaw was likely to leave.
The conversations heading into the January transfer window behind the scenes at St Mary’s were all about convincing him to stay for the rest of the campaign before he moved in the summer.
Privately, there were few expectations of a stay extending beyond last season, such was the developing situation. Lallana’s move developed much later, but the player was just as decisive.
Saints would probably be wise to take a similar view this summer over Lovren, and any other player who wants out that badly.
Lovren has put in a formal transfer request, and few come back from that.
There is no point in the club procrastinating about it. As long as the deals are right then get on and get them sold if that is what is going to happen anyway, and give Koeman the maximum amount of time possible to reinvest the cash.
The last thing the club needs is to have these issues dragging on through pre-season – which begins next week don’t forget – and to miss out on potential targets.
There would be nothing worse than deals still ambling along the week before the start of the season, or, worse still, at the end of the transfer window.
If this is to be a summer of change and transition at St Mary’s then swift and decisive action needs to be taken, because the team cannot risk being destabilised by all this.
It is a sad reality of football that Saints are nearly always going to lose their best young players, but that’s the Premier League. You have to accept it for what it is or look elsewhere for your sporting fix.
But let’s be positive.
Koeman could end up with a war chest well in excess of £70m from player sales alone to reinvest, and that sounds a lot more exciting.