The route from St Mary’s Stadium to Anfield recently has been well-traversed to say the least; so well travelled in fact, that if I could carry a Saints player for a mile every time I had heard a ‘Liverhampton’ joke, I’d have been able walk to Liverpool, drop him off, and walk back by myself!
But arguably, unlike the triple deal for Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and the rather more popular Rickie Lambert last summer, Liverpool seem to have actually got a good deal out of Southampton in Nathaniel Clyne, the £12.5m rather less inflated due to his precarious contract situation.
A right back who defends superbly but isn’t quite as effective in the final third as often proclaimed by pundits, Clyne should fit seamlessly into a back four or into a back three/five as a wingback. Incredibly quick and with stamina to make strong runs for a full ninety minutes, he should give Liverpool much more security than Emre Can did towards the end of last season.
Clyne joined Saints from Crystal Palace after his contract expired at Selhurst Park, the club agreeing a compensation fee with Palace rumoured to be around £2.5m, and has been nothing short of superb ever since he made his debut away at Manchester City in the Saints’ first game back in the top flight since 2005.
The then-21 year old was rather unfortunate, however, that in his first few games for Southampton, he was part of a defence that leaked goals for fun; an incredible 28 in his first ten games in fact. Having won just once in that time (Clyne scored the crucial second in a 4-1 win over Aston Villa), Saints were looking favourites to go down.
But things got easier, and Saints lost just twice in the next spell of ten games, conceding a rather less alarming ten goals. However, things would change when Southampton’s double-promotion winning manager Nigel Adkins was ruthlessly sacked.
Mauricio Pochettino was appointed amid harsh criticism of both him and chairman Nicola Cortese, and Saints suddenly looked relegation-threatened once more. Yet the Argentine tightened up a leaky defence, leading Saints to 15th and safety, before taking Saints to eighth and their best position for eleven years.
But amid the turmoil of Pochettino, Cortese and six key players (three of them up to Anfield!) leaving all in the space of six months, Clyne would have been wondering what lied ahead.
Yet, the right back shone under new manager Ronald Koeman. A rocket in front of the Kop sent Southampton fans, having travelled to Anfield hoping to see their team keep the score down, absolutely berserk. The equalizer may have been in vain with Daniel Sturridge scoring a late winner, but morale was higher.
The morale rose even further as Saints kept up their momentum, with Clyne a key part of a defence that by December had only conceded just nine goals (22 less than at the same point in his first season), and looked on for a unlikely Champions League finish.
Yet something changed, and Clyne suffered a noticeable drop in form. Perhaps he had just dipped back to his normal standards after an incredible first half of the season, but talk of a move to Liverpool and Manchester United put the spotlight on him when he needed it least.
Certainly, his performances in the second half brought arguably some of his worst since joining from Palace; Leicester and West Brom away gave the impression he was looking to not get injured.
A contract saga that went on for months finally led Saints and Clyne to the summer with still no sign of putting pen to paper, and having recently told the club he wasn’t to sign a new deal, a move to Liverpool after interest from United mysteriously disappeared now looks set to be complete.
A fantastic defender, who inexpicably isn’t first choice for his country despite arguably being the best wing back in the land, Clyne will rather irritatingly make one of Saints biggest competitors last season much stronger, and recent signing Cédric Soares will do some to match his predecessor’s high standards.
But Saints fans will be far less scared than the departures this summer than last, having learned to trust Koeman and the transfer committee (how Liverpool fans would love to say that about Rodgers and FSG!) and the wheels will simply keep turning.
Yet Clyne represents arguably the best value for money of the four Southampton players to depart to Liverpool in the past two summers, a feat made rather easier when it is reminded just how much it cost to take Lovren to Anfield last summer.
Clyne may not be given the greatest reception next year because of his choice of club given the animosity given towards Liverpool, in particular Rodgers. But this deal shows simply how the football food chain works, and the Saints defence has lost a superb defender. All the best.
Huge thanks to George Galpin for this fantastic piece.
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