Despite having cooled down from what was a great start to the 2013-14 Premier League season, Southampton FC currently finds themselves ninth in the league standings with 30 points through 21 games. A number of factors have contributed to this, with the development of academy players like leftback Luke Shaw, smart player acquisitions, and the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino having all played a role in the Saints’ early season success.
Yet late on Wednesday (United Kingdom time), a mini-bombshell was dropped,as it was announced that executive chairman Nicola Cortese had quit. The significance of his departure immediately led to reports that Pochettino would soon follow him out the door, as he was ready to hand in his resignation as manager of the club. While Pochettino might still follow Cortese out the door, he was persuaded by the former executive chairman to sleep on his potential decision. Given that things have been going well for the club, many are probably wondering as to what the source of this sudden upheaval that triggered such decisions and reactions.
In short, the answer to what happened on Wednesday night and what might happen over the next two weeks is that rumors are beginning to circulate that the Leibherr family, led by Katherine Leibherr, who now holds the position of non-executive chairman with the departure of Cortese, are ready to cash in on their investment and sell Southampton. This is prompting many to think about what happened to Blackburn Rovers and how they have fallen off the map since their sale to the Venky family, who now owns Rovers.
To add further to the speculation, it appears that despite the best efforts of Cortese, who has been recognized as the force behind ensuring that Southampton’s young homegrown stars currently on the squad who are still able to play for the team here in their second season back in the top flight, has been told that players must now be sold. Therefore, it should come as no surprise if, in the next few weeks, Shaw is sold to Chelsea for £21 million; it is also being rumored that Adam Lallana may also be sold.
Needless to say, the potential for a complete meltdown and fire sale is not good for the club or for the Premier League. As far as Southampton is concerned, a potential departure by Pochettino, combined with the sales of Shaw and Lallana, would destabilize the club at a moment when things are going well and there is no need to deliver such an edict. In addition, owners like the Leibherr family do more harm than good to the Premier League, as they create a situation where they can devalue a commodity, which at this moment, has a nice shine to it for a prospective buyer.
Before the Leibherr family bought Southampton from administration for £14 million, the club was in disarray and floundering. Thanks to the stewardship of Cortese as chief executive, Southampton reached the point where it had become a model club and one which other clubs could point to as a model for how to reach and stay in the Premier League while being competitive. After what happened Wednesday and what might follow in its aftermath, it appears that Southampton might just once again be the hot mess that it was no so long ago, and that would be a shame.