ARSENE Wenger has revealed Saints “could have won the European Cup” – had managers like him not plundered the club for their best players.

The Arsenal boss admits the Saints could have been one of the biggest teams in Europe had they kept their star players.

Wenger will be watching on intently as new coach Ronald Koeman looks to cope with the loss of so many talented players this summer.

“'I respect the quality of work they (Southampton) have done,” said Wenger.

“You look at Southampton and the team they had last year, plus Walcott, Chamberlain and Bale - they could have won the European Cup had they managed to keep everyone together.

“The modern game has changed and the smaller clubs with less potential are not in a position to keep their players.

“It will be interesting to see how they get over what happened to them.

“They have made a lot of income and they have shown in the past they are very clever at scouting.

“It will be very interesting to see how they manage what has happened to them.”

Wenger has signed three of Saints’ crown jewels in the last seven and a half years.

He swooped to sign 16-year-old Theo Walcott in January 2006, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, then 17, in August 2011, and earlier this week snapped up defender Calum Chambers in a deal worth potentially £16m to Saints.