Southampton’s academy is undoubtedly one of the best in England.
Since returning to the Premier League in 2012, the south coast club have continually shown faith in their most talented youngsters and have been rewarded by the number of whom who have gone on to become first team regulars at teams up and down the country.
But their ability to replace those best prospects has been equally incredible.
Time and time again, Southampton have been forced to sell their star men to their Premier League rivals and time and time again they have been able to unearth another gem to seamlessly slot into the starting XI.
For once, though, Saints actually stood their ground this summer with Virgil van Dijk and refused to grant his move away from St Mary’s. Perhaps times are changing.
It got us thinking. What kind of starting XI would Southampton be able to put out had they been able to have that same stance with all of their exciting stars over the last few years?
With pace and power in abundance, this team would take some stopping today!
GK: Fraser Forster
Forster is now into his third season at St Mary’s and is firmly established as the No.1.
It’s only been the recent emergence of Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland which has pushed the 29-year-old down the England pecking. Still a very reliable shot-stopper between the posts.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne
Clyne is the first player included who went on to join Liverpool (Warning: There are quite a few) after catching the eye at Southampton for three years.
His pace makes him a natural fit in Jurgen Klopp’s side today and he very rarely gets embarrassed defensively either.
CB: Virgil van Dijk
Like Forster, Van Dijk arrived from Celtic with a growing reputation.
Although supporters might be divided over his behaviour during the summer window, it is little wonder the likes of Liverpool are interested given his form since 2015.
The Dutchman would easily get into almost every Premier League side’s back four, making him an obvious selection.
CB: Dejan Lovren
Still considered a liability by some critics, Lovren’s inclusion might not be to everyone’s liking.
But he was brilliant during his only season on the south coast and has quietly cut out the costly errors that dogged the early part of his career at Anfield.
LB: Ryan Bertrand
Brought in to the club to replace another potential contender for this XI, Luke Shaw, Bertrand is arguably the better player at this current point in time.
While Shaw’s career has continued to stagger at Man United, his successor at Southampton has become one of the most consistent left-backs in the league.
CM: Victor Wanyama
The third ex-Celtic star on this list, Wanyama has really flourished under Mauricio Pochettino – the manager who signed him for Southampton – at Tottenham.
As powerful midfield enforcers go, the Kenyan is one of the best in the business.
CM: Morgan Schneiderlin
Schneiderlin is another ex-Saints star who might be questioning whether a move away was really the best decision.
But now at Everton, the midfielder appears to be getting his career back on track and producing those kind of performances that often go under the radar.
RM: Gareth Bale
Picking the wingers caused the biggest selection dilemma, with a plethora of quality options available.
It would be impossible to leave Bale out, though. The Real Madrid star was originally a left-back all of those years ago at St Mary’s but is now considered to be one of the best attacking players in the world.
CAM: Adam Lallana
Lallana spent eight years at Southampton and was there to see the club’s remarkably rapid rise from League One to the Championship.
The 29-year-old has kicked on at Liverpool and is another one who has flourished under the guidance of Klopp.
LM: Sadio Mane
Mane’s pace is truly frightening at the best of times.
The fourth and final player in this team to move from St Mary’s to Anfield looks to be reaching his prime at the start of the 2017/18 campaign – a scary thought for defences throughout the Premier League.
Mane and Bale’s inclusions mean the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond would all have to settle for a place on the bench.
ST: Graziano Pelle
A tough call between Pelle and current frontman Manolo Gabbiadini but the former just edges it for us.
Pelle scored 30 goals from 80 appearances during his time at Southampton. You’ve got to assume his record would be even better in a side with Lallana, Mane and Bale just behind him, though.
Although, he is now in China you’ve got to remember it looked like the Italian would be heading to Chelsea after Euro 2016.