Creating the best Southampton squad of departed players

Southampton (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)
Southampton (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images) /

Southampton has built a reputation over the years of being a “feeder club”. An organization with an incredible youth and academy system that develops young talent and then sells them off for a large profit. And it’s true! You only have to look at academy graduates James Ward-Prowse, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, Gareth Bale, and others who went on to be greats for their new clubs.

And furthermore, if you are like me, you spend a lot of time arguing about random sports hypotheticals. Who wins between an all-time Manchester City XI and Manchester United XI? Is Haaland better than Henry? Is Portsmouth the worst club in England? My personal favorite — if you put Pep Guardiola into a League 2 side how long would it take them to get to the Premier League? (imagine Gillingham playing tiki-taka…terrifying)

So roll up your sleeves, we’ve got a doozy. We’re creating the best Southampton XI…of players who have left us. Now first off some ground rules:

1.) They have to be currently playing, no retirees, and not currently playing for Southampton (this includes coaches)

2.) You have to play players in their position within reason — if you want to play Nathan Redmond as a left back that’s acceptable, but Oriol Romeu as a goalkeeper is too much

3.) You have to use that player in their current age and form — can’t go back to the player’s primes. For example, if you want to pick Toby Alderweireld, you get current, Saudi Pro League Toby.

4.) That’s it! The rest is up to you

Creating a squad of 11 Southampton departed players

Obviously, my 11 would smoke any other squad — but if you’d like to put your entry up against mine (and other submitters) feel free to let us know on X (you can Tweet @NikKinney1 or @SaintsMarching_). The best entry will win the incredibly valuable prize of my everlasting gratitude for participating. Without further ado — the best Southampton departed XI.

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Poch was great with the Saints but took his career to a new level after leaving for Spurs in 2014. 3rd and 2nd place finishes in the Premier League, and a Champions League final with Tottenham, then a French Super Cup, Ligue 1 championship, and Champions League semi-final with PSG. He has managerial experience at the top echelons of football and plays a high-octane, attractive brand of football which will be perfect for my Saints squad. We are playing a 4-2-3-1, with a high pressing, high octane system involving a heavy focus on overlapping wing backs and runs in behind.

Goalkeeper: Paolo Gazzaniga

This might be controversial. After all Big Fraser Forster is right there. But we need a keeper who can play with his feet. And the currently playing for Girona Gazzaniga not only can do that but has played under Pochettino before at Spurs. It’s a no-brainer for the #1 job.

Right Back: Tino Livramento

While only 21, Tino has proven himself to be one of England’s up-and-coming talents. The current Newcastle player has made 7 Premier League, and one Champions League appearance this season. The overlaps with Mané are going to be deadly.

Center Backs: Virgil Van Dijk, Mohammed Salisu

Southampton’s most expensive sale has to be in the squad. A Champions League winner and full Netherlands international, VVD is in the squad, no question. His partner is more of a debate. While other options exist, Salisu is in his prime and showed flashes of his immense potential during his stint with Saints in the Premier League. While he has not yet featured for his current club Monaco, he remains a regular when healthy in the Ghana squad, and can rely on ball player Van Dijk to cover for his on-ball issues.

Left Back: Luke Shaw

While only featuring twice for United manager Erik Ten Hag this season, Shaw is still only 28, and has plenty of football left in him. He easily beat out other candidates such as Ryan Bertrand and Matt Targett for this spot.

CDM: Oriol Romeu

I still think if the Saints keep Oriol Romeu instead of letting him leave for hometown club Girona they do not get relegated. Romeu is a serially underrated player, finally getting his deserved flowers now as a regular for Xavi’s Barcelona side. The Champions League winner gets this spot, no question.

CDM: Roméo Lavia

One of football’s up-and-coming stars, Lavia is battle-tested at the Premier League level and is only 19 years old. His immaculate ball-carrying skills will fit perfectly in Pochettino’s possession-oriented, fluid system. Plus we have elder statesman Romeu to mentor and keep him honest. Ballon D’or winner by 2029 in this team.

Right Wing: Sadio Mané

While Sadio has departed top-level football for the retirement home pastures of the Saudi Pro League, the 31-year-old can still ball. He is a regular scorer for Senegal, and his physical limitations as he ages can be covered for by Tino’s youth down the right wing. I think we can still get 10-15 goals out of those legs yet.

Left Wing: Sofiane Boufal

We’ve got a lot of pragmatism in this squad. Prowsey, Romeu, Lavia, and Shaw, are all hard workers who can grit and grind opposing teams down. But we need a sparkplug. Someone who can wow fans and opposing players alike. Enter Sofiane Boufal. Boufal had an incredibly impressive 2022 World Cup with Morocco, showcasing his incredible on-ball dribbling skills and passing range. With Luke Shaw always providing defensive cover, we are going to get the ball out to Sofiane and let him cook.

CAM: James Ward-Prowse

Prowsey is the best striker of a dead ball in the world and a top-level performer who can play anywhere on the pitch. He’s in the squad, no questions asked. Plus his chemistry with our number 9 is too good to pass up. This leads me to…

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Striker: Danny Ings

Ingsy should’ve never left the Saints. His career has gone only downhill since scoring 12 goals for Saints in 2020/2021. The former 20-goal scorer hasn’t cracked 10 Premier League goals for new clubs Aston Villa or West Ham. However, with service coming in from the likes of Prowsey, Boufal, and Mané, the pure poacher can refind his scoring touch.