Jay Rodriguez deal signifies important step forward for Southampton
Southampton (7/4 with Coral for a top six finish) have tied sought-after star Jay Rodriguez to a four-year deal that should see the exciting attacker stay at St Mary’s until 2019, and the announcement is certainly a well-timed and welcome one.
According to reports, right back Nathaniel Clyne has also re-entered contract negotiations and, if the Saints can persuade the apparent Manchester United target to stay, recapturing the England international’s signature would be equal to any acquisition of new blood.
On the surface, retaining Rodriguez, who has been sidelined with a serious knee injury since last April, does not seem a coup worth celebrating so vigorously.
However, on closer inspection, the deal is much more important than meets the eye for Southampton’s status, especially since Manchester City were said to be giving the 25-year-old admiring glances.
Dutch coach Ronald Koeman told press: “This is very good news for the club because there was some speculation about Jay and interest from other big clubs.
“It is a compliment to the club that we have an agreement,” said the St Mary’s gaffer, and his last sentence is key.
Rewind to just last summer and Southampton were in an entirely different predicament, as rumours were rife surrounding an exodus of first-team stars, and soon after the transfers of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw were sealed, and the Saints tipped for relegation woe.
It is credit to the club’s impressive infrastructure and forward planning that a probable seventh place finish would now be considered a disappointment, following a surprise swashbuckling season in which the south coast club boasted one of the Premier League’s best backline records.
Now seemingly able to keep hold of their prize assets, St Mary’s fans will be hoping Clyne follows suit by penning a new deal, though convincing classy midfield shield Morgan Schneiderlin to stay on the south coast appears much more unlikely.
Atletico Madrid-owned star centre back Toby Alderweireld is another name linked with a departure, but should Southampton stave-off competition to land the Belgian permanently, it would be a huge signal of intent.
Perception is everything and, if Saints wish to stand firm this summer, having recovered from the departures of key players in spectacular style, players must only be plucked from their roster for eye-watering fees.
The coastal club now have a real opportunity to build again, but much of their ability to challenge for continental competition, regardless of pricing their players highly, or putting faith in their tremendous production line, depends on shifting their reputation as a selling club.
Koeman may have an excellent eye for a transfer bargain, and have mastered restructuring squads, but will surely not want to work from scratch again this summer.
If Southampton are to stand a chance of seeing talented academy graduates such as James Ward-Prowse reach their potential on the south coast and not elsewhere, and create the dynasty their academy deserves, their resistance to plundering big-guns must start now.