Towering at the center of Liverpool’s defense is Virgil van Dijk, the man who is pretty much unanimously considered the best defender in world football. At the opposite end of the field is a man who, in the last 2-3 years, has started to be mentioned with the likes of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo. Sadio Mané.
Ironically, Liverpool signed both players from Southampton: Mané in 2016 for £34 million then van Dijk in 2017 for a stunning £75 million. It’s not the strangest thing in the world—two world-class players who played for the same “small” club before moving on to bigger things, although it probably does deserve at least a single head-scratch. But what is strange, is the number of players that Liverpool have signed from Southampton in the last several years who have contributed to the rebuilding process of the club on one way or another. Let’s count.
Virgil van Dijk
Rickie Lambert no longer plays for Liverpool, Adam Lallana is rumored to be on his way out and Nathaniel Clyne has been virtually eliminated form the squad until Trent Alexander-Arnold has an injury, but all of them have contributed in their own ways.
Southampton have always been a selling club. Their mentality has remained the same: develop players and do good business when it’s there to be done. In just the van Dijk and Mane deals they managed to net a profit of £84 million.
But for many years Southampton has also been recognized as one of the best youth academies in England. Having developed and sold players like Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, Theo Walcott, Calum Chambers, Tyrone Mings and Alex Oxlade-Chamblerlain the club has long-since proven that their ability to cultivate talent is top class. On a side-note, Oxlade-Chamberlain signed for Arsenal and now plays for Liverpool also. Just for fun let’s take a look at a Southampton team who could afford to keep their star players.
I heard a story once about how the Southampton academy and senior training center is designed. There is a long hallway where the dressing rooms are located. The nearest door is the U-16 dressing room. You aren’t allowed to go beyond that dressing room until you graduate to the U-18 team, the next door in the hallway. Further still is the U-21 and reserve dressing room and finally, at the end of the hallway is the senior team’s dressing room. It seems like this psychological tactic has had a positive affect with so many players successfully making their way down the hallway to the final door.
But in regards to Liverpool and Southampton’s relationship, it’s a bizarre phenomenon. To see a top European team with so many players signed from one club in the same league is peculiar. At the moment, you won’t find another example on such a profound scale.
Below, take a look at the pair of highlight videos. The first is of Sadio Mane scoring the Premier League’s fastest-ever hat trick for Southampton in just 2 minutes and 56 seconds. The video runs uncut as it did when the game was live so the goals are all scored in real time. Do you really not have 2 minutes and 56 seconds to spare? The second video is of some of the best defending from Virgil van Dijk, also worth six minutes of your day!
There really isn’t any point I’m trying to prove here. I just think Southampton deserves a tip of the cap, especially from Liverpool fans.