Liverpool could re-open £171m transfer pathway as Reds icon in talks over stunning return

Liverpool’s favourite 'feeder' club are back in the Premier League after Southampton secured an immediate return to the English top-flight on Sunday.

Adam Armstrong’s first-half strike earned the Saints a 1-0 victory over Leeds United at Wembley to win the play-off final - just a year after suffering relegation before finishing the campaign with a 4-4 draw against the Reds at St. Mary’s.

Both clubs have regularly dealt business together during the modern Premier League era, with FSG signing off on no less than six signings from Southampton during their Anfield reign.

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In the space of three and a half years, between the summer of 2014 and January 2018, the Saints pocketed £171m from Liverpool as the Reds signed Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane, and club-record signing Virgil van Dijk. Going further back to include Peter Crouch’s £7m switch in the summer of 2005 and such a total reaches £178m.

Meanwhile, during the same period, Liverpool also snapped up Steven Caulker on loan from Queens Park Rangers after a temporary stint with the Saints was cut short, and former Southampton academy graduate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a £35m deal.

Admittedly, it has not been one-way traffic, with Danny Ings joining Southampton in a £20m deal in July 2019 after a successful season on loan, and the Saints signing Takumi Minamino on loan in January 2021. But the two clubs have grown well-versed in negotiating with each other.

There could potentially be another Saint on the move to Anfield this summer, with Liverpool reportedly interested in Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

The one-time England international finished the season as first-choice under Russell Martin as they won promotion, and is out of contract this summer. But while the Reds could be in the market for a new back-up shot-stopper, with question marks around both Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian’s futures at Anfield, the Saints boss hopes the veteran signs a new deal at St. Mary’s.

"I know that there will be offers for all of them and probably offers that will pay them more than we can,” Martin conceded to the Southern Daily Echo after winning at Wembley. “Hopefully the feeling they have and all that stuff will outweigh financial gain but maybe there'll be other things about it too.

"Big Al [McCarthy], I guess I'm a bit of an idiot for not playing a bit sooner, but I think we have such a brilliant goalkeeping department here with Gavin [Bazunu] and Joe [Lumley] as well. I'm so pleased for Al that it finished in this way. As I said, maybe it was meant to happen that he came into the team at some point.

"He's been immense since he came in so we'll try and keep Al as well and we'll keep our fingers crossed. It's my job now to try and squeeze more money out of Phil [Parsons, CEO] and the board and everyone and see where it takes us."

While it remains to be seen if Liverpool will move for McCarthy, one former Red could actually be about to make an emotional return to Southampton following their promotion.

Adam Lallana is a Southampton legend, having won back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League with the club - and also lifted the Football League Trophy in 2010 - prior to his £25m move to Liverpool in 2014.

A firm favourite under Jurgen Klopp following the German’s own appointment in October 2015, the playmaker went on to win the Champions League, Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, and European Super Cup during his six years at Anfield.

But despite such success and returning 22 goals and 21 assists from 178 appearances for the club, Lallana recently admitted that he felt like he didn’t belong at Liverpool after first joining the club, before Klopp transformed his fortunes.

“I remember my first year at Liverpool I was like: ‘I don't belong here'," Lallana admitted to Brighton's YouTube channel. “I remember thinking: ‘I need to somehow survive this first year at Liverpool’ because I felt like I didn't belong.

“I was speaking to Hinch's [Jack Hinshelwood] dad out there today about how sometimes lads from Saints [Southampton], Brighton and the ‘nice clubs’ turn up for England international duty. Around all the big players from London teams, they struggle to be themselves because it can be overwhelming with the big boys there, earning more money.

“There was a little bit of that [at] Liverpool with me coming from Southampton. I was rubbing shoulders with Stevie G [Gerrard] in the dressing room. I struggled training with Stevie G because it was Stevie G. I'm honest to say: ‘I'm not sure I belong here’.”

In a farewell video for Klopp, ahead of his final game as Liverpool manager earlier this month, Lallana also credited his former manager for transforming his fortunes after he admitted that he 'didn’t feel comfortable in the dressing room, on the pitch, in the kit' when he first arrived at Liverpool.

"Straight away he took that away,” Lallana said. “Straight away. And I’ll never forget that."

Still a popular player at Anfield, Lallana left the Reds to join Brighton & Hove Albion at the end of his contract after winning the Premier League back in 2020. And now, four years on, the 36-year-old is a free agent again after leaving the Seagulls at the end of his contract.

And having watched his former club win promotion at Wembley on Sunday, the Telegraph reports that Lallana is now in talks regarding a sensational return to St. Mary’s - 10 years on from his initial £25m move to Liverpool.

While at times booed by supporters of his former club when facing them with the Reds, few could begrudge Lallana the success he went on to enjoy at Anfield. And now a decade on, his career could be about to go full circle after leaving Liverpool as an English, European, and world champion.

In the midst of their £171m Southampton spending spree, the Reds were at times mocked for regularly turning to the Saints and accused of overspending. And while Van Dijk and Mane changed that narrative, Lallana’s own transformation at Anfield ensured, as he discusses a Bosman return to St. Mary’s, for Liverpool, it was certainly money well-spent.