Striker to steer Southampton through another successful summer
Southampton are one of the only clubs in world football blessed with the gift of actually becoming stronger when they sell their most desirable squad members.
In the summer of 2014, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert departed, yet their Premier League position improved from eighth to seventh, while the 2015 exodus of Toby Alderweireld, Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin couldn’t prevent their ascent from seventh to sixth.
So they have nothing to fear this pre-season, and may even be relishing the window for once, partly because they aren’t quite as reliant on individuals as they have been in the past, partly because there aren’t as many players being linked with exits and partly because they might be able to use the system to their advantage better than ever before.
Take Graziano Pelle for example. The Saints – who are 100/1 to “do a Leicester” in 2016/17 – have seen a pretty solid return on their reported £8 million investment, with the striker notching 30 times in 71 starts across two seasons on the south coast.
However, though he has been a hit, there is no denying that now would be the optimum time to sell: his contract is up in 2017, at 31 in July, his value will soon decrease and he is no longer integral, not being selected from the start for any of their final four Premier League games of 2015/16 (all wins).
The usual St Mary’s talent raiders like Manchester United and Liverpool will be aware of these developments, meaning that Southampton probably need to attract suitors from further afield, and Euro 2016 is the stage on which they are going to be able to do it.
The lack of world-class Italy forward options at present mean that while Pelle is playing second fiddle to Shane Long at club level, he is first choice for the four-time world champions, starting eight of their previous nine internationals.
He is doing fairly well in the role too, netting three match-winning goals in that timeframe, the latest of them against Scotland in a friendly preparing for Euro 2016, where he is 40/1 to be top scorer.
Odds of 16/1 rate the Azzurri as sixth favourites and point to a run to the quarter-finals, meaning at least five opportunities for Southampton’s number 19 to remind audiences back in his homeland and elsewhere in Europe of his ability, inviting interest that his employers should be happy to cash in on.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.