Sunday 25 March 2018

Koeman urges Southampton to hold on to best players and push to next level

Koeman is making his frustrations more public than before.
Koeman is making his frustrations more public than before.

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Ronald Koeman has warned the Southampton board they must show more ambition in the transfer market or the club will stop growing.

Southampton play Liverpool in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals tonight but Koeman has said they will have to change their transfer policy, by spending big to replace the players that they will seemingly inevitably lose, if they want to regularly challenge for trophies.

The Southampton manager had to deal with a raft of departures in the close season in 2014 and last summer, when they were the only Premier League club to make a profit in the transfer market. Koeman does not want that to happen again. Asked yesterday when this policy would start to annoy him, he answered honestly: "Maybe next year."

"Of course, we would like to keep the best players, because that means that we can grow and grow," Koeman added. "If not, we need to spend money, and we don't spend a lot of money. After the last transfer window, Southampton was the only team in the Premier League who got money out of the transfer window. Nobody else, nobody else."

Koeman, making his frustrations more public than before, said he wanted a new policy on recruitment. "Everyone else spent more money than they got," he said. "I would like to change that but I am realistic. I know the situation of the club."

It seems unlikely that Southampton will be able to keep Sadio Mané, Victor Wanyama or Graziano Pelle if there is significant interest in them at the end of the season. Koeman sounded resigned to their departures, but hopes they will be properly replaced.

"I am quiet, easy-going, because you have to know the situation of the club, you have to know the ambition of those kind of players," he said.

"It is normal that there is interest. It is a compliment to everybody in the club. The scouting has to be prepared again when we lose players."

That Southampton may sell their best assets again next summer increases the importance of tonight's match at St Mary's.

As Koeman said, Saints only have "two opportunities to win a title", this and the FA Cup. Reaching their first semi-final since 2003 would represent the culmination of years of hard work.

"Maybe it is something the club needs, after several seasons doing fantastic work," Koeman said. "This is something that you can win, and we will fight and do everything to win. One of the meetings we had with the team at the start of the season was about improving, being better than last year. We know it is really very difficult to reach the same level, because in one and a half years we lose 10, 11 players, a whole team."

Koeman is more than halfway through his three-year contract and he spoke like a man who might need persuading of the merits of signing a new one. Given the possibility of more upheaval next summer, he targeted success now, rather than in an uncertain future.

"I am not really a 'project' manager," he said. "Football is what happens now. We have to win now. I don't say, 'my contract is for three seasons, my job is to have a good team after three seasons'. Come on."

"'Project' is a nice word. But in life you can't look forwards. What happens today and tomorrow can be different. It is easy to say, 'ask me at the end of my contract'. No. I am working now, we are playing now, and we have to win now." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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