Ralph Hasenhüttl takes his Southampton side to European hopefuls West Ham on Boxing Day, with the Saints currently occupying 15th place in the Premier League table.
Having only won three top-flight games all season, Hasenhüttl would no doubt dearly love to have just a couple of the top-class operators they’ve sold down the years at his disposal.
The South Coast outfit has a rich history of developing players before selling them on for a profit, but the sheer amount of talent they would have been able to boast had they not sold any of their stars is seriously impressive.
To illustrate this point, we here at GIVEMESPORT have put together a full XI of quality players who were once (or still are) under contract at St. Mary’s. Each player selected is still active today.
Southampton’s XI if they hadn’t sold their best players
GK: Alex McCarthy (Still at club)
RB: Kyle Walker-Peters (Still at club)
CB: Virgil van Dijk (Joined Liverpool – £76.19m)
CB: Ben White (Released by the club’s academy)
LB: Luke Shaw (Joined Manchester United – £33.75m)
RM: Dušan Tadić (Joined Ajax – £12.33m)
CM: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Joined Tottenham – £14.94m)
LM: Jamal Musiala (Left the club’s academy to join Chelsea)
RWF: Gareth Bale (Joined Tottenham – £13.23m)
LWF: Sadio Mané (Joined Liverpool – £37.08m)
CF: Danny Ings (Joined Aston Villa – £26.48m)
It’s a line-up that would, at the very least, be in European contention.
Analysis: There’s no denying that Southampton have benefitted in a big way financially after parting company with some of these former players.
The likes of Van Dijk, Mané, Shaw and Bale were realistically always going to move on to a greater stage than St. Mary’s, such is their ability. At least, though, the Saints were well compensated upon their departures.
That said, Southampton have also missed out on a couple of highly-prized young prospects over the years.
Arsenal defender Ben White was released from the club’s academy at the age of 16 after coaches saw limited potential in him moving forward. The now-24-year-old moved to the Emirates from Brighton in the summer for a fee of just over £50m.
The club also had a brief association with Bayern Munich star Jamal Musiala. The German international, who spent a portion of his childhood living in the city, represented Southampton at youth level for four months – before being persuaded to make the switch Chelsea.
Former midfielder Dušan Tadić is another player whose outstanding recent performances would come in very handy on the South Coast right now.
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The 33-year-old, who joined Ajax in 2018, has had a record-breaking calendar year for the Dutch giants. His 37 assists during 2021 broke Lionel Messi’s previous mark of 36 from back in 2011. Given that Southampton have only scored 16 goals in 17 Premier League games so far this season, that kind of creativity is exactly what Hasenhüttl’s men are lacking.
In reality, it’s not practical from a side to avoid selling all of their top players. However, Southampton have not done well in replacing their key men, despite receiving hundreds of millions of pounds in transfer fees.
While Van Dijk, Mané and Musiala chase success on both domestic and European fronts, the vast majority of Southampton supporters would be happy with simply avoiding the drop this season.
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