Martin Semmens was appointed CEO of Southampton in 2019 and has overseen a number of transfer windows whilst working with Ralph Hasenhuttl at St. Mary’s.
The pair have worked together in five windows since Semmens was made CEO and that has seen countless players arrive and leave the south coast club, some successfully and others, not so much.
Sometimes you can land a player who is on the rise and making progress in their career. For example, Southampton signing Virgil van Dijk from Celtic for £14m before later selling him on to Liverpool for £76m, showing that they were able to sign someone who had scope to develop further and increase their value.
This is a profitable way to go about player recruitment and that is a prime example of how it can work. Southampton made £62m in profit on that particular investment, whilst enjoying Van Dijk’s talents on the pitch in the Premier League in the intervening period.
However, sometimes it can go the other way and a player comes in already declining. This is where it can get tricky as they come in at a certain level of quality on x amount per week in wages and then the levels drop as time goes on, whether that be due to their age or other factors at play.
One example of this is a current first-team player in the form of ex-Arsenal forward Theo Walcott, who Semmens has had a nightmare with.
Three years ago, Walcott was valued at £18m by Transfermarkt following a transfer to Everton from Arsenal, having scored 108 goals in 398 matches for the Gunners after joining them from Southampton as a youngster.
He then struggled to find his form at Goodison Park, scoring 11 times in 85 games. This saw his value drop to £5.4m upon his switch to St. Mary’s on loan in 2020, with the winger managing three goals and three assists in 26 matches for the Saints last term.
Walcott’s numbers were declining and his value continued to plummet as he hit a low of £4.5m after signing for Southampton permanently earlier this year. This is a £13.5m decrease in three years and shows that he has been on a downward spiral that started before he rejoined the Saints and has continued throughout his time at the club.
He was earning a reported £55k-per-week on loan, before cutting his £150k-per-week Everton salary in half to earn £75k-per-week this term. This means that he earned roughly £2.9m in his loan spell and is set to earn the best part of £8m from his permanent contract.
So, whilst Walcott may have signed for the Saints on a free transfer, he could end up costing the club over £10m by the time he has left. This means that Semmens has splashed out a big chunk of change on a player who is clearly on a downwards trajectory, and still falling, money which could have been spent on a younger player with potential.
Therefore, Semmens has had a mare with the veteran winger he has signed an out-of-form player whose value is continuing to decrease on big wages. This money could have been better spent elsewhere and that is why signing Walcott could be seen as a mistake.