Unfancied Southampton continues quiet rise despite summer turmoil

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-27 23:18:03

Last week was a big one in ­soccer across Europe, headlined by La Liga's Clasico game and the return of Luis Suarez.

The Premier League saw a major clash between two ­powers, while Champions League action occurred midweek. However, overshadowed amid all the glamor games was the steady success of Southampton as it retook second place in the Premiership with a win on Saturday.

In Madrid, Real Madrid took on Barcelona in the Spanish league's (and arguably, Europe's) premier match. Soccer royalty filled the rosters on both teams, highlighted by Real's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca's Lionel Messi. Barca scored in the fourth minute but Real worked their way back through a penalty by Ronaldo and two more goals in the second half.

In the Premiership, leaders Chelsea played out a pulsating 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday that saw a last-minute equalizer from the latter.

Meanwhile, far from the spotlight, Southampton continued with their winning ways, defeating Stoke 1-0 Saturday, one week after demolishing Sunderland 8-0. The Saints are enjoying their best start to a season, as they occupy ­second place after nine games. ­Manager Ronald Koeman has done a miracle job to accomplish this.

Southampton's early success is unexpected, not just because it is a relatively small club, with a pedigree far removed from the likes of Manchester United, but because it suffered an exodus of its best players over the summer.

Having come off a decent 2013 season, Southampton were helpless as far more wealthier and prestigious clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal swooped in to take away rising talents like Adam Lallana and teenage defenders Luke Shaw and Callum Chambers.

Granted the club earned a lot of money from this - 92.5 million pounds ($149 million) - which they promptly spent on new players. This is no guarantee of success, as Liverpool and Tottenham have found out recently when trying to replace star players, but Southampton have indeed done so.

As it is, Southampton's squad is filled with talented players but no stars. Its leading scorer is Graziano Pelle, a 29-year-old Italian in his first season at the club who only earned his first cap this month.

There is still a long way to go in the season, and it is unlikely that Southampton can remain in second place. But for now, let's appreciate the club's fine progress that is a rare thing in today's world of powerful, wealthy clubs.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. hiltonyip@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Extra Time

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