Man United, Man City and Chelsea to begin £20m tug-of-war over Luke Shaw
Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are preparing for a bidding war over Luke Shaw after Southampton were plunged into crisis on Wednesday night over the resignation of chairman Nicola Cortese.
Club owner Katharina Liebherr has taken immediate charge of the day-to-day running of the club in a new position of non-executive chairman and her first priority will be to persuade Mauricio Pochettino to continue as manager and reassure leading players.
Pochettino was also in talks at St Mary’s on Wednesday night with Cortese. He was described as being “in “shock” and, although there are serious doubts about his future, he is expected to lead the club against Sunderland on Saturday. The Argentine was appointed by Cortese exactly a year ago and has previously always said that his future would be aligned to that of the now former chairman. Pochettino is due to hold a press conference at St Mary’s on Thursday afternoon.
Cortese believes that the Liebherr Estate are preparing to sell Southampton but, according to sources close to the family, that is not the case.
Liebherr is adamant that she now wants to appoint a chief executive, keep Pochettino as well as key players, and oversee a period of stability.
The Liebherr family do have a history of investing in the club – loans of £33 million were turned into equity last year – but they could clearly make a considerable profit by selling. The late Markus Liebherr paid £14 million for Southampton in 2009 when the club were in administration and it would now be worth around £100 million. Katharina Liebherr has no previous experience of working in football and has attended few matches since ownership of the club was passed down to her after the death of her father, Markus, in August 2010.
Shaw is the club’s most sought-after player and, although the England Under-21 left-back had stressed previously that he wants to stay until at least the summer, his camp will now review the situation.
Offers can also be expected for England trio Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert, as well as Morgan Schneiderlin and Dejan Lovren. West Ham renewed their interest in Lambert on Wednesday as Sam Allardyce continued his attempt to add a striker.
The main focus, though, will be on Shaw, who is only 18 but tipped for stardom and valued at £20 million. The four English Champions League clubs have all tracked him for two years but Arsenal now have two senior left-backs in Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal. It leaves Chelsea, United and City with an active interest. Those three clubs had all been informed at the start of the transfer window that there was no possibility of Shaw leaving in January and that any deal would wait until the summer. They will now be aware that the situation could be accelerated. Some sources say a deal could even be completed within the next seven days.
Chelsea, who on Wednesday completed the £22 million signing of Nemanja Matic, will hope that their hand is strengthened by the possibility of using Ryan Bertrand as part of any transfer. Ashley Cole has been struggling at Chelsea of late but the arrival of Shaw would not necessarily signal the end of his career at the club.
Having missed out on Everton’s Leighton Baines, United still want a left-back and had been in talks about bringing Fabio Coentrao on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season. Moyes was then planning to bid for Shaw during the summer.
There were drastically conflicting accounts last night of the dispute that has led to Cortese’s departure. It has been widely claimed that Cortese was unhappy over a perceived threat to his control and felt that certain assurances that were made last summer had not been acted upon. According to other sources, it amounted to a simple contract dispute about his salary. This is denied by Cortese.
What is not in doubt is that Cortese actually tendered his resignation last October and was actually serving out his notice period. Katharina Liebherr then failed in an attempt to persuade him to reconsider. She has already begun the search for a new chief executive who will take over Cortese’s duties. “With great regret we have accepted the resignation of Mr Cortese,” said Katharina Liebherr.
“He has done a wonderful job at the club and we very much wanted him to stay. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we will ensure that the manager, the team and all the staff at the club have all the help and support they need.”
Pochettino has described Cortese as the “reality at Southampton” and he has had almost complete control in his running of the club since the 2009 takeover. Cortese has made enemies and been ruthless but the progress he has overseen is obvious. Southampton were in administration and on minus 10 points in League One when he became executive chairman in 2009. He has departed less than five years later with the club 58 places better off in the Football League pyramid.
Defender’s three suitors
Manuel Pellegrini’s title-chasers are reportedly ready to splash £30 million for Luke Shaw, who would solve a positional problem at City, where Gaël Clichy and Aleksandr Kolarov have not always convinced.
Long seen as the likeliest destination when the Southampton prodigy decides to move on. Chelsea view him as the perfect successor to Ashley Cole. And Shaw says his favourite team after Southampton are… Chelsea.
The champions are in serious need of rejuvenation, and where better to start than bringing in Shaw to end long-term question marks over the left-back berth? Long-serving Patrice Evra’s contract expires at the end of the season and Leighton Baines could be staying at Everton.
Going, going, gone? Who is nearing the exit at St Mary’s
Teenager is among the most coveted talents in the Premier League and is ready for a new challenge. WANTS TO GO
Manager feels great loyalty to Cortese and has said he would leave the club should they lose him. LIKELY TO GO
Italian endured a fractious relationship with the club owners and resigned as chairman last night. GONE
Saints accepted a £7m offer from West Ham on Wednesday night, leaving the forward to discuss terms. WANTS TO GO