“What if Southampton could have kept their best players?” This question has become a cliché in recent years.
With players like Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Dusan Tadic, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Victor Wanyama joining some of the biggest clubs in Europe, people are still pondering how good the Saints could have been.
It’s a fair point. Some absolute world champions have passed through St Mary’s in recent years, but what is sometimes ignored is the Academy of Saints and their youth recruitment.
Today we take a look at what the Southampton team could have looked like if they had retained all their best young talent.
GK: Paulo Gazzaniga
Southampton don’t have the best track record when it comes to young goalkeepers but one player who joined the Saints as a youngster was Paulo Gazzaniga.
The Argentine arrived at the South Coast as a 20-year-old and has since enjoyed a respectable career, playing for both Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham.
RB: Calum Chambers
Calum Chambers came on the scene as a right-back at Southampton but has since been moved to central defense at Arsenal, while also working in midfield while on loan at Fulham.
Chambers currently plays for Aston Villa after joining from Arsenal in January.
CB: Ben White
This is something Southampton have come to regret.
Ben White was sacked by the Saints aged 16 and has since become a £50m defender and England international.
White, who now stars at Arsenal, could well play in the Champions League next season.
CB: Tyrone Mings
Tyrone Mings, another England international who was sacked as a teenager, was sacked by Southampton in 2009 after they cut their youth budget.
We have no idea how much the club saved by cutting youth costs back then, but it probably wasn’t as much as the £25m Aston Villa paid to sign Mings in 2019.
LB: Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw, the fourth England international in our defence, has a major international final goal to his credit after scoring for England against Italy at Euro 2020.
He has had a shaky season at Manchester United but there is no doubt that he is one of the best full-backs in the country.
CM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain established himself as a quick, tricky winger at Southampton but these days he’s a solid central midfielder at Liverpool.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is the first of three Champions League winners at this side and were it not for injuries he would likely have been a regular in England for years.
CM: Adam Lallana
Another midfielder to land at Liverpool, Southampton fans know all about Lallana’s skills.
His career is probably drawing to a close at this point but as some of his performances for Brighton have shown he still has a lot to offer at this level.
CM: James Ward-Prowse
Southampton fans needn’t comment on how good James Ward-Prowse is.
Ward-Prowse is a tireless midfielder and arguably the best set piece shooter in the world. He is the only player on this team who never left St. Mary’s.
RW: Theo Walcott
Now back in Southampton, Theo Walcott was seen as the next big thing when he broke through on the south coast as a 16-year-old.
The winger would end up playing for both Arsenal and Everton before returning to St Mary’s where it all started.
Walcott never reached the heights expected of him, but it’s fair to say that by most players’ standards he’s had a fantastic career.
ST: Sadio Mane
This one bends the rules a bit, but Mane was signed as a 22-year-old and while he wasn’t an academy graduate, Southampton’s eye for young talent also deserves to be celebrated.
Another Champions League winner, Mane has proven to be one of the deadliest outsiders in Premier League history.
However, following his recent exploits for Liverpool as a centre-forward, he is leading the line in that team.
LW: Gareth Bale
One of the true superstars of world football, Gareth Bale has won no fewer than four Champions League medals.
A two-time PFA Player of the Year and once the most expensive footballer in history. Not only is Bale the best player Southampton Academy has produced in recent years, he is arguably the best player an English side has produced in this millennium.
In other news, Video: £90k-a-week Arsenal star produces a moment of pure magic on international duty
https://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2022/03/31/southamptons-xi-if-they-kept-their-young-stars/ Southampton’s XI if they keep their young stars