By Blair Newman, Football Whispers
During the summer transfer window, Liverpool were forced to consider the possibility that their star player might move on. Barcelona came in for Philippe Coutinho, making several substantial bids, but the Merseysiders held firm.
And they were themselves linked with a move for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk in an attempt to solve their central defensive woes. However, the Saints refused to budge in the face of persistent speculation and scrutiny, keeping hold of the Dutchman, at least until January.
Both players’ heads were turned and both could have departed for serious money, but the clubs in question decided against selling them.
Here our friends at Football Whispers argue why Liverpool and Southampton may have been wrong in their stance, using five clubs who improved after selling their stars as examples they could have followed.
Since the turn of the century, Atletico have enjoyed a fine succession of world class forwards. Home-grown hero Fernando Torres led the way, and he was followed by Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, Falcao, Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann.
However, all bar the latter eventually moved on, to Liverpool, Manchester City, Inter Milan, Monaco and Chelsea respectively. And Griezmann, who is a Manchester United target, could follow in their footsteps.
In league action, the Frenchman has achieved a goals per game rate of 0.54. While impressive, that doesn’t quite match the rates of Falcao (0.76 per game) or Forlan (0.55 per game), showing the quality Atletico have had to call upon up front in their recent history.
The Spanish giants have repeatedly allowed their star attacking players to move on, but this hasn’t held them back. In the last ten years they have finished outside La Liga’s top four just three times, won the title once, won the Copa del Rey once and reached the Champions League final twice.
In the years following their 2010 Portuguese league title win, Benfica saw many of their best performers move on for some of the continent’s finest clubs. Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao joined Real Madrid, David Luiz, Ramires and Nemanja Matic joined Chelsea, and Axel Witsel joined Zenit Saint Petersburg.
However, at the same time as those moves happened, they began to reassert themselves domestically. They won the title once again in 2014, and went on to do so for four consecutive seasons.
In the past five years, they have held off Porto and Sporting Lisbon, finished runners-up in the Europa League twice and gone beyond the Champions League group stage twice. They have done this while making just under £300million profit in the transfer market thanks to the sales of Victor Lindelof to Manchester United, Renato Sanches to Bayern Munich and Ederson to Manchester City, among others.
Benfica may be a selling club, but they’re a hugely successful one.
After top-scoring for Leeds in the Championship last season, Chris Wood was linked to a number of Premier League clubs. Burnley eventually won the race for the target man’s signature, bringing him in for a fee of around £15million.
The New Zealander carried the Yorkshire club single-handedly at times last term, with his goals playing a huge role in their ultimately unsuccessful play-off push. The team finished seventh, manager Garry Monk moved on, and the hitman’s departure sealed what from the outside may have looked like a disastrous summer.
However, Leeds reinvested the fee gained from Wood’s sale in 16 new signings. Many of those arrivals, including the creative Samu Saiz, the pacey Ezgjan Alioski and sweeper-keeper Felix Wiedwald, have been instant successes.
Thanks in part to those additions, the Elland Road outfit now sit proudly atop the Championship table and are firmly in a promotion race. The most interesting aspect of their improvement has been that, despite Wood’s exit, their average goals rate has shot up from 1.3 to 1.75 per game.
In each of the last five seasons, Sevilla have made a net gain in the transfer market. Combining the fees paid and received for players in this period, they made a total profit of £130.9million. Some of the stars to have left them include former Arsenal target Carlos Bacca, Ivan Rakitic, Jesus Navas and Vitolo.
However, thanks primarily to the work of previous sporting director Monchi, the Andalusian side have been able to compete both in Spain and on the continent. In the last half-decade they have finished outside the La Liga top six just once, while they won three consecutive Europa Leagues.
If Southampton needed encouragement as to the potential benefits of selling one star player – in this case, van Dijk – for the sake of the club, they could simply have looked at their own recent history. Since being promoted to the Premier League in 2012 they have consistently sold, but this has not prevented them from thriving.
For four successive seasons between 2012/13 and 2015/16 they improved their league position, moving from 14th to sixth in the table via eighth- and seventh-place finishes. This was achieved in spite of a mass exodus of talent.
Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane joined Liverpool; Morgan Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw joined Manchester United; Victor Wanyama joined Tottenham Hotspur and Calum Chambers joined Arsenal. All left for large sums of money, while Southampton continued their progress on the pitch.