For about three years, Liverpool might as well have had a plane parked permanently at Southampton Airport.
Indeed, there was so much football traffic between Anfield and the south coast club that a form of transport to carry new signings to the north-west for medicals and contract signings would have been useful.
Between the summer of 2014 and January 2018, Liverpool spent around £185 million on Southampton players – with Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk all swapping the St Mary’s Stadium for Anfield.
There was some truth in the punchline – the Saints were Liverpool’s feeder team.
Of course, the Reds have been vindicated in their gutting of Southampton. Mane and Van Dijk, in particular, have become key figures for Liverpool, carrying Jurgen Klopp’s side to last season’s Champions League title.
This wasn’t spending for the sake of spending. It just so happened Southampton produced a number of players that fit the Reds’ needs.
Manchester United are surely looking at Leicester City in a similar way.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have suffered a dreadful start to the season, with the Old Trafford outfit just two points above the Premier League’s bottom three after eight games. Gaping holes have emerged in the United squad over the past few weeks and focus has already turned towards the January window.
Solskjaer himself has confessed his desire to sign a striker when the transfer window opens again.
The exit of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have left Man United terrible short of options up front and so names are already being put forward. Moussa Dembele, Erling Haland, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Mandzukic… they’ve all been mentioned.
United are also in desperate need of at least one central midfielder, a right-winger, a centre back and a left-back. Signing so many players in one window, especially the January window, will prove almost impossible, but Solskjaer and the Old Trafford club must come up with a plan to flesh out their squad as quickly as possible.
Leicester boast many of the sort of players Man United need.
James Maddison, to give one example, has been linked with a move to Old Trafford and with good reason. The 22-year-old has enjoyed an exceptional start to the season and possesses the kind of creativity, invention and drive Solskjaer is lacking through the centre of the pitch.
Maddison might wish to stick it out at the King Power Stadium for the full season, with Leicester City on course for a top-four finish.
Having sold Harry Maguire to United for £80 million in the summer, the Foxes would almost certainly demand a fee in excess of that for their prize asset. Man United, however, are among the richest clubs in world football. They have the resources to meet these sorts of asking prices.
Wilfred Ndidi is another Leicester City player who would immediately improve Solskjaer’s team.
The Nigerian would give United the sort of presence they require in midfield, providing a cohesion that is currently lacking at Old Trafford. Youri Tielemens would also bring an extra dimension to the Red Devils.
It remains a mystery why they weren’t interested in him during the summer, when Monaco wanted just £40 million for the Belgian.
Then there’s Ben Chilwell. The England international hasn’t been at his sparkling best in recent matches but would be a more reliable option than injury-prone Luke Shaw at left-back. Even Jonny Evans would raise the level of Man United’s defence were he to return to his former club. That says a lot.
Were it not for his background as a former Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers would surely be one of the best candidates to replace Solskjaer if it ever comes to that. The Northern Irishman invigorates every club he takes over, getting the best out of the talent at his disposal.
He would fit the bill for United as unlikely as his hiring there would be.
Man United will have to spend big to fix their problems in the transfer market, but in Leicester City they are presented with a shelf from which to shop from.
Southampton were something similar for Liverpool over a few years and look at how that benefited the Anfield club.
With Maguire already at Old Trafford, United should return to the Foxes with their chequebook.