Following the chaotic departure of chairman Nicola Cortese, Southampton fans have been worried that an exodus of their top stars could be to follow before the end of the January transfer window. One of their most prized assets is teenage left-back Luke Shaw, widely considered to be one of England’s brightest young talents. Unfortunately for the Saints, Chelsea have been heavily linked with the 18-year-old, with Ashley Cole not getting any younger and question marks still surrounding the ability of Ryan Bertrand to provide a long-term replacement.
Having already sent a clear message to Chelsea’s title rivals with the £21million re-signing of Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matić, José Mourinho said upon rejoining the club last summer that he wanted to build a dynasty at Stamford Bridge, and the signing of Shaw would be the perfect way to start. Chelsea’s play this season has been fairly defensive, often bordering on dull, with Eden Hazard the prime creative outlet behind their misfiring forwards.
Shaw has been likened to fellow Saints academy graduate Gareth Bale due to his exceptional attacking style, equally adept at bombing forward and delivering a killer cross as he is getting back and defending his goalkeeper. It is a position that Ashley Cole has filled for the Blues for close to nine years, and has racked up more than a century of England caps since his debut in 2001. Despite this, he is 33 years old, and a replacement will need to be found sooner rather than later; he has been heavily linked with a move to the MLS to finish his career, following in the footsteps of Jermain Defoe, who confirmed his move last week.
Integrating his replacement into the squad early on would make the transition easier, and Bertrand has not been favored by Mourinho, under whom he has only made one league appearance this season. Bertrand is also reported to have been shipped out to Aston Villa on loan for the remainder of the season, despite playing in their victorious 2012 Champions League Final.
The greatest fear on the South Coast is that a departure of any of Southampton’s young stars could spark an exodus out of St Mary’s. Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert are in demand throughout the Premier League and beyond, with many managers keen to snap up some top homegrown talent.
The three have all recently increased their credentials by making their England debuts, and may see a move to a bigger club as a potential springboard to the World Cup in Brazil. However, it is rumoured that Mauricio Pochettino, who has stated his own commitment to the club, is holding out for £20-25million for the young defender, which would be enough to strengthen his young side considerably, with similar price tags expected to be slapped on Rodriguez and Lallana.
With Financial Fair Play soon to be implemented, is is not certain that Mourinho would want to take such a financial risk on the youngster, but he has been given some extra punch in the transfer market by the departure of talented Belgian youngster Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg for a fee in the region of £16million.
In his time at the Bridge, De Bruyne made only five appearances and was sent out on loan twice. He impressed at Werder Bremen last season with 10 goals in 32 appearances, but breaking into Chelsea’s attacking midfield trio was always likely to be a big ask. Oscar, Hazard, Willian and Schürrle have managed to keep the wonderful Juan Mata on the bench, so the odds were always stacked against the Belgian, and he couldn’t take the risk of being benched at the beginning of a World Cup year.
Firstly, Jose Mourinho must focus on Sunday’s clash with Manchester United in the Premier League. With Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney ruled out by David Moyes, it is a great chance for the Blues to deal United a killer blow, and they could finish the weekend at the top of the table.