By Aidan Small, Southampton Blogger
When it comes to finding gems in the modern day market, few clubs are finding more bang for their buck than Southampton Football Club.
With the help of the mysterious black box and countless hours put in by scouts and analysts all across Europe, Southampton have managed to unearth numerous Premier League stars in Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Virgil Van Dijk and many more.
This technique of hunting for the top performers in Europe’s lower leagues has proved to be a worthwhile decision – for both domestic success and financial gain – but another scouting technique used by the club has caught my eye.
Over the past two seasons, Southampton have signed three players who hold remarkable similarities; Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. On the face of things, that statement seems far from the truth. All three players are of different nationalities, ages and even positions, but take a closer look and you will find that they hold a likeness in the way that they were sourced. It’s certainly no coincidence either.
All three players played for one of Europe’s big clubs, all were touted to be big stars and all were cast aside by their parent clubs due to outstanding competition. Southampton are targeting the forgotten talents of Europe’s big boys in a bid to develop them into the stars that they were once so promised to be.
So, assuming that this scouting technique will continue to be followed by Les Reed and co, I shortlisted five young stars that Southampton may look to snap up in the future.
1. Lewis Baker
For many years now Lewis Baker has been one of the finest talents in Chelsea’s academy; he’s a composed passer of the ball, is quick with his feet and he even has an eye for goal. As many other young stars at Chelsea have found out however, this doesn’t promise game-time. Despite scoring nine goals in 39 appearances for Vitesse at the age of just 21, Baker is still waiting to be rewarded his Chelsea debut. Given that he’s spent his time in Holland operating in a fluid and expressive Vitesse midfield, this would be a signing whereby Baker would fit in with ease at Southampton. Even more so given that he’s teammates with James Ward-Prowse, Matt Targett and Nathan Redmond during International duty too.
2. Nathaniel Chalobah
Chalobah has a fantastic reputation amongst football fans throughout England, and rightly so. Throughout his six loan spells away from Chelsea he has proved himself to be an athletic, versatile and hard-working midfielder with a no-nonsense approach to defending. Similarly to Baker however, Chalobah has also been starved of first-team football at Chelsea, having only made his debut for the club last month as a 79th-minute substitute in the Fourth round of the ELF cup. If Chalobah still finds himself void of any opportunities at Chelsea by the end of this season, then he must look to join a new club for the sake of his development.
3. Chuba Akpom
The talent, skill and intelligence that the young footballers at Arsenal Football club boast is sensational, and Chuba Akpom – a product of Arsenal’s famous academy – is certainly no exception. He possesses natural pace, a direct style whilst attacking, holds flair in abundance and constantly asks questions of the defenders with his movement. The only issue is that Arsenal’s front line is dripping with quality, presenting Akpom a challenge that few youngsters could overcome. If he’s unable to find game-time at Arsenal in the future, Akpom could be an exciting prospect if he were to join up with Southampton.
4 . Calum Chambers
Putting all previous history between Southampton and Chambers aside, this is a deal that could work perfectly for both parties. Arsene Wenger made the decision last summer to reinforce his defence with the signings of Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi, which in turn placed Chambers out of favour. He has since moved to Middlesbrough on a season-long loan in hunt of game-time, but come the end of his loan spell, I’m certain that he won’t be short of interest. Given that Southampton are short of defensive cover, Chambers may well be a fantastic option in the future at a discounted price.
5. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Finally, we come to my dream signing from the list; Ruben Loftus-Cheek. At the age of just 20-years-old, Loftus-Cheek has shown that he holds the physical strength needed to dominate the midfield, the confidence to express himself on the pitch and the class to put it all together. Yet still, chances are coming at a premium to the England U21 International, and judging by recent showings, his situation at Chelsea may not be the best for his development. Certain players thrive under small doses of first team football at a big club, whilst others flourish under regular playing time at a club of lower stature. Only time will tell us which method of development works best for Loftus-Cheek.
By no means however am I saying that I believe Southampton can sign Loftus-Cheek in this current situation; he’s a player with exceptional potential and Chelsea will no doubt want to give their all in making him a Premier League star.
What I do believe though – and this goes for all of the names mentioned above – is that if these stars are still sitting here in the same situation one or two years down the line, then Southampton is the perfect club for them to kick on in their promising careers.