clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sadio is the symbol of the current Saints strategy

George Galpin argues that the departing Southampton star is the proof that the fans should trust in what the club are doing

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
The jokes have started, the memes are being prepared and the "selling club" insults have already been thrown. Southampton have sold a player to Liverpool for big money, in what is the fifth time in three summers that money has gone south in exchange for personnel.

This time it is Sadio Mané who travelled to the red half of Merseyside; rather oddly, it is those from the Blue side of the area who have been quickest to point out a so-called lack of ambition from the Saints for selling the forward.

Everton are seen as being the smart ones, Southampton the foolish; the Toffees keep their stars, after all. Their fans even sent out a strong message to Chelsea last season about the Londoners' pursuit of John Stones, adapting The Beatle's Money Can't Buy You Love.

There is a big flaw in the theory that Money Can't Buy You Stones though; the song is somewhat oblivious to the fact that shareholder Bill Kenwright shelled out £2.5m to buy the defender from Barnsley. Don't let facts get in the way of a good ditty.

The Saints supposedly have no ambition, and selling another asset shows that. Yet it is arguable that Mané himself is the prime example of the strategy that has helped Southampton to sixth place last season, five places above Everton and rather more ironic two spots above the Senegal forward's new employers.

The fact that Liverpool are desperate to emphasise the fact Mané cost £30m and no more than that to the journalists who report on them speaks volumes, especially as the Saints hierarchy are keen to get out the message that the deal actually cost a lot more, claiming the move was for a ‘club record undisclosed fee' that eclipses the £34m paid for Luke Shaw by Manchester United.

If social media is anything to go by, even at the lowest quoted price that Liverpool are trying to push, many feel that the figure being shelled out for the forward is too much.  The amount of cash handed over is made even more extraordinary when you consider that Liverpool declined signing Mané from Red Bull Salzburg for £11m two years ago because he didn't rate high enough on their scouting system.

Southampton are in a very good position to make their buy-low, sell-high policy work. The Saints' squad is good enough that even in a bad year, it would have to be an implosion of seismic proportions to be relegated and that comfort allows them to take calculated risks.

Then-new manager Ronald Koeman was in desperate need of pace upfront after Jay Rodriguez's injury, and the club had scouted Mané a lot due to his success in a Red Bull Salzburg side that play a similar style. Koeman was more than happy to sign him, having seen the striker completely dismantle Ajax in a Europa League game the season before in Amsterdam.

The "selling club" tag has been used mainly as an insult and a few have questioned why anyone would want to join a club that sells its best players, but Koeman even suggested himself that part of the reason that Mané joined was because Southampton was a good step in his development (1:08 in the video below).

Two years, 25 goals and the fastest ever hat-trick in the Premier League later, Mané has now departed for a figure that the Telegraph's Sam Wallace has suggested could rise from £34m to £38.5m. There is no doubt that the Senegal international is a talented player but when offers like that arrive with a large proportion upfront they have to be considered, especially with only two years left on his contract and a incoming manager who would appreciate funds to put his stamp on the squad.

In many ways, the move is one that works for every party. Southampton made a calculated gamble in signing a player outside the biggest leagues and signed a player who may not have come otherwise by promising Mané that the South Coast was the best step for him. Their reward for their risk was his ability, helping the Saints to two consecutive best Premier League finishes, and a profit of £26.7m in 21 months. Claude Puel did not get to work with the forward, but his transfer budget has now been given a huge boost.

Mané meanwhile has become a more consistent and more effective player, and is now ready for a move that may have been too big a jump two seasons ago. A big wage increase, surpassing a contract offer from Southampton themselves, and a chance to work with one of the world's most prominent managers.

Liverpool, meanwhile, get a player at over twice the price they could have paid two seasons ago. When you look at the figures involved, it makes you think whether Southampton are really the foolish ones after all.