John Gibbons: Here’s why Liverpool buy so many Southampton players

The Anfield Wrap looks at how the two Premier League clubs have been so tightly linked over the last few years…


This weekend Liverpool and loads of lads who used to play for Southampton travel to The Saints for a game of football that matters at both of the table.

Not that this game needs much extra spice. Ever since Liverpool started their annual routine of taking Southampton’s best player, it’s been very lively down at St Mary’s whenever The Reds turn up.

As Saints fans will no doubt be keen to tell you, their record against us in this period is pretty good, too. I don’t know if it is the vitriol coming from the crowd or the players raising their game hoping to pass the audition to double their wages in the summer, but Liverpool have really struggled against Southampton in recent years.

In fact, one bizarre league cup game when we hit seven aside, we’ve even struggled to score.

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We seemed to play them four times in a month last season and not win any of them. They’ve frustrated us in the league. They’ve knocked us out of cups, they’ve had our number that much you would think we were coming up against Derren Brown.

This, of course has delighted a Saints crowd that, in the current absence of a local rival, has decided Liverpool are the team they want to beat. In the past, the most extreme abuse has been saved for Dejan Lovren, but it will be interesting to see if they switch attentions to Virgil Van Djik now. If they boo so many of our lads they end up keeling over.

Football is a funny industry. In any other business Liverpool would have a good loyalty card and sights of our owners would lead to rolling out the red carpet and a licking of the lips.

We’re responsible for about a third of their turnover, after all. Instead we get slagged off and booed – how bloody ungrateful.

But why do Liverpool keep buying players off Southampton anyway? I guess it is part of same system that results in Barcelona buying players off us all the time.

There has always been a pecking order in football, but never has it seemed so set in stone. So hard to break, unless your club takes the fancy of a middle eastern country, jetting you up the ladder.

In the Premier League alone there is a top six, then a bottom dozen and then a few who have tended to find themselves in between. With a few class players, but not enough to truly worry the Champions League places.

If Liverpool want to buy proven Premier League quality they are basically, with the odd exception, restricted to Southampton and Everton.

Buying from the latter is tricky, for obvious reasons, so it ends up being the former.

People may ask why we don’t just buy Southampton targets, or indeed scouts and save a lot of money. But, why would we?

Liverpool would have been aware of Sadio Mane playing in Austria, but been happy for someone else to take the risk on if he could adapt to the Premier League. Van Djik would have impressed for Celtic, but it’s a big jump from marking St Mirren forwards to marking Alexis Sanchez.

The Reds will be happy to see these players move to a club like Southampton, who have played a similar style of football to Liverpool, ball on the floor, high energy, and then make a move. You pay a premium, but someone else is taking the risk – Liverpool will be happy with that.

It’s not always much fun for Southampton, of course. But they get to shout abuse at a load of lads on Sunday.

Let’s be honest, that’s largely what we are all in it for anyway…

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