In previous summers when the urge to pilfer the finest performers on Southampton’s roster became too much, Manchester United and Liverpool simply leaned on their smaller south coast contemporaries with a few stacks of cash.
It was a heavy-handed, but effective method of getting things done, with both player power and the Saints own financial needs ensuring they could not turn down, say £20m for Dejan Lovren, or £30m for a teenage Luke Shaw.
Both of the previous pre-seasons have seen integral members of Ronald Koeman’s team pried away, with one of English football’s two most successful teams, more often than not, wielding the crowbar. Yet savvy Southampton always sourced sufficiently skilled replacements to ensure their continued improvement.
Losing Lovren and Shaw, alongside chief goal threat Rickie Lambert and head of the munitions supply Adam Lallana in the summer of 2014, wasn’t able to stop Saints finishing in sixth the following season.
Once again, prized assets were lured to more prestigious locations – defensive-midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin went to Man Utd, right-back Nathaniel Clyne to Liverpool – but Koeman’s troops still climbed a place in the table, closing the previous campaign in fifth.
Few would debate that such achievements warrant sky-high commendation for, not only were they been recorded in the face of constant restructure, but they seem to have subverted the notion that Saints players are better off at Old Trafford or Anfield if they want to succeed.
Or at least that’s what the scarcity of transfer speculation regarding stars departing St Mary’s this summer would suggest. So far a few unsubstantiated whispers regarding Sadio Mane being a Liverpool target is all that’s surfaced.
The Reds recent purchase of Loris Karius is perhaps the most obvious indicator that they’re no longer of sufficient stature to raid Southampton at will.
Karius has obvious talent and will develop into a top goalkeeper, but Saints stock a ready-made super-stopper in Fraser Forster who guarantees clean sheets from his first day on the job. If there was any interest in him from Merseyside it went undocumented.
Neither Liverpool nor United can offer a higher standard of football next season and, with the TV-funded cash injection on the way, the financial benefits of moving between the clubs will be marginalised too.