There is no doubt that the acquisition of Ronald Koeman was a stroke of sheer brilliance by Southampton.
Despite suffering an exodus of several key players last summer Koeman, through some important signings, has breathed new life into a club that most thought would have a dismal campaign this season. But instead of proving everyone right Southampton have had a highly successful year, which may still end with qualification into the Europa League.
Koeman is the reason why the Saints now sit just one point away from sixth and have never had to worry about relegation. Southampton had a hugely successful season last time around with players like Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana receiving many plaudits for outstanding performances before they moved to bigger clubs.
But remarkably, while they finished their last campaign on 56 points the Saints have already eclipsed that figure with four matches still left to be played.
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The Dutchman signed Italian striker Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord and, although he has had a mixed first season, the Italisn has still managed to find the net 16 times in all competitions. Koeman has found a way to get the best out of the club’s new and established players, recording impressive wins over Arsenal and Manchester United, which has allowed the Saints to keep up with some of the league’s top teams.
All of this success, though, has drawn attention to Koeman and there have been rumours that even Barcelona have been keeping an eye on him. Koeman played for the Spanish giants in the nineties and so some have questioned whether or not he’d stay loyal to the Saints if Barca came calling.
This whole rumour stems from when Barcelona were struggling to catch La Liga rivals Real Madrid who had opened up a considerable points gap at the top of the table. But with Lionel Messi, Neymar and new signing Luis Suarez finally beginning to forge a truly formidable partnership, Barcelona are back on top and manager Luis Enrique looks likely to keep his job.
When asked if he would take the role if offered it, Koeman answered that he was still a young manager who wasn’t quite ready for that challenge – and he couldn’t be more right. To rejuvenate Southampton is one thing, but ensuring a side like Barcelona challenges for and wins trophies every season is something else entirely.
Before the Saints boss even thinks about such an appointment he needs to win something with Southampton and it should probably be something important like the domestic title or the Champions League. Even Jose Mourinho would be unlikely to achieve this with the Saints, so perhaps even breaking into the top four might be impressive enough.
It will be interesting to see how Southampton fare in Koeman’s second season at the club and surely a lot will rest on how they handle the summer transfer window. They need to hold onto their key players this time while adding strength up front.
And by securing Europa League football the Saints will gain the exposure needed to interest mid to top level players.
Koeman has shown he is a skilful manager and now he needs it to be reflected in his trophy cabinet. Only then should the idea of leading Barcelona be a credible possibility.