It may not be what Southampton particularly want, especially at this stage of the transfer window, and selling another key member of the squad could wreak further havoc on their reputation and morale ahead of the new season. But selling Morgan Schneiderlin is the best option for the club this summer.
The French international has been quite clear about his desire to leave Southampton and has taken steps that will more or less ensure a messy split when a sale does eventually take place. His latest admission that his head isn’t in the right place to compete should be an indicator to the club that this isn’t a player worth hanging on to.
As good as Schneiderlin is, who’s to say his valuation will remain at a constant over the coming year? Southampton will do what they can to get a figure in the region of what they received for Adam Lallana, circa £25 million. But a season of poor form and one hand consistently on the exit door will see the club lose whatever leverage they may still have by this time next year, and they will be forced to sell at a fraction of the price.
There isn’t long left in the window, but with over two weeks remaining, it isn’t a disastrous situation. Defensive midfield isn’t the only position that would need addressing, and in Ronald Koeman, Southampton have a manager with more than enough contacts in the game to suitably replace those who have departed.
What will be important for the new manager going into the season is ensuring he has a settled squad. Schneiderlin has been one of the most consistent midfield performers in the Premier League over the last two seasons, but his unhappiness could prove to be a problem throughout the year. It’s not worth the hassle of trying to juggle the want-away Frenchman and integrate newcomers into the team and league.
There are others in Europe who have a history of holding onto players who have kicked up a fuss. Athletic Bilbao famously held Fernando Llorente to the final year of his contract as means to make clear that they were in charge of the situation. The club firmly won over supporters in that particular saga before seeing the Spaniard head to Juventus on a free transfer.
But Bilbao’s situation is notably different to that of Southampton. Relatively speaking, the Premier League club are open to buy anyone in world football, whereas the La Liga side have self-imposed restrictions on only signing players with Basque heritage. Transfer fees mean little when the priority is to enhance the academy.
In addition, Borussia Dortmund did something similar with Robert Lewandowski when Bayern Munich came knocking last summer. But again the situation was different to that of Southampton’s. Dortmund won’t allow themselves to lose more than one major player per summer, whereas Southampton’s exodus is extraordinary and a one off.
The combined fees of Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Morgan Schneiderlin alone should see Southampton hold enough to completely revamp the squad – and Europe is never short of bargain players of high quality. Add to that the fees brought in from Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers and the club can plan for well into the future on the recruitment front.
The only problem that they’re having is in the impression that they’ve caved to the demands of a player.
But there’s far too much in play here that shouldn’t really matter. If Southampton sell Schneiderlin now after saying they wouldn’t, what does that say about the club? Well honestly who cares? Who cares if people think the club can’t keep their word? What if an interested party table an obscene bid for the player, something that shatters all previous expectations? Should they still hold fire because of what people may think about them?
It’s a lot of nonsense. Selling Schneiderlin, who quite clearly doesn’t want to be there, and getting maximum return for him is absolutely in the best interest of the club.
There’s a lot of speculation about what may happen to Southampton during the season as a result of these sales. But very few are going the other way on the matter, suggesting that the money could be reinvested for the better. The premium attached to Premier League players is insane. No one can argue that there isn’t a player in Europe who can do just as well as Schneiderlin for a fifth of the price. As an example, Muhamed Besic, Everton’s latest signing, looks a great piece of business at £4 million.
One way or another Schneiderlin will leave Southampton. For the club, there’s little point in dragging this episode out for at least another six months, with the player’s value is hugely unlikely to increase further.