Opinion: Have Liverpool bought well from Southampton?

Opinion: Have Liverpool bought well from Southampton?

Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mané - what do they all have in common? They have all made the move from Southampton to Liverpool. But how have they performed since arriving at Anfield, and what are their futures?

Ben Lockett

Since 2014 Liverpool have become obsessed with recruiting Southampton players every summer.

Five players have made the trip from the south coast of England to Merseyside in the last three years, and it would have been six had the Reds been successful in their intense and controversial pursuit of Virgil van Dijk.

The relationship between the clubs, as a result of these regular transfers, has become strained at best, toxic at worst. Ex-Southampton players who feature for Liverpool in away days at their former club often get booed by the Southampton fans, most notably Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana

Moreover, despite the influx of cash pumped into Southampton by Liverpool alone, the Saints board are trying to end their policy of selling their big stars to the big clubs, though the club needs its own significant investment to consistently challenge the top six, so this admirable stance is unlikely to last for long. 

For Liverpool however, eroding Southampton's stubbornness on van Dijk and co. will be especially tough, with Southampton now fed up of the Reds cherry-picking their best players.

Nevertheless, five players have managed to complete their transfers from Southampton to Liverpool. The quintet's success has been far from perfect, but four of the five remain at Anfield and, of those four, three should have a bright future in Liverpool red. However, let us begin with the one who has left.

Rickie Lambert

Seen as a Plan B or C for Brendan Rodgers, Lambert knew he was not going to get too much football at Anfield, but the striker - who had previously featured in the Liverpool Academy in his early years only to be released - could not turn down the chance to play for his boyhood club. 

At only around £4 million, the transfer appeared a wise move - strengthening the squad with a proven, in-form, Premier League goalscorer. Yet once Luis Suárez left and only Mario Balotelli arrived as a replacement, the pressure increased on Lambert to consistently supply the goals to ease the loss of the Uruguayan. 

However, Liverpool's style of play did not suit Lambert - he was only supposed to be a secondary option - and he struggled in his only season. Perhaps Lambert felt the increased pressure from Suarez's departure, but also the pressure from himself to do justice in the Liverpool shirt he had always wanted to wear so desperately. 

Lambert left for West Bromwith Albion, and has since retired, never recovering from his decline with Liverpool. However, by playing for Liverpool at Anfield, even if only for one underwhelming season, the Englishman fulfilled a lifelong dream, justifying the move.

Verdict: Miss

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Adam Lallana

Out of these five, Lallana offers the best example of sheer improvement since arriving at Anfield. Signed in the same summer as Lambert, Lallana also struggled to adjust in his debut campaign, having never played for a club of Liverpool's stature. He also appeared lost on the wing. 

Once Jürgen Klopp replaced Rodgers however, Lallana was transformed. The 29-year-old became a symbol for Klopp's pressing style, and eventually moved into a central role in the Liverpool side.

The £25 million signing has rediscovered his creative best, with last season's form validating Liverpool's investment in the former Southampton captain. 

Injuries have kept Lallana sidelined so far this season, and the competition for Liverpool's attacking places is fierce, but Lallana unquestionably has a big role to play in any success under Klopp, for the next couple of years at least.

Verdict: Hit

Dejan Lovren

It has been a rollercoaster ride for Lovren at Liverpool. Unfortunately however, the pendulum of positivity and promise has swung away from the Croatian too often as he nears the halfway point of his fourth season with the Reds (the same as Lallana). 

There have been good moments for Lovren. The best ironically occurred in the opposition box, when Lovren scored the dramatic winner against Borussia Dortmund in that unforgettable 4-3 victory in the 2015-16 Europa League quarter finals. 

Yet the nightmare performances have mounted considerably - the 3-0 home defeat to West Ham United springs to mind, while he was hauled off after just thirty minutes in the 4-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur this season. 

Lovren's malaise is not entirely his responsibility - the commanding form with Southampton that led to his £20 million transfer in 2014 was helped by the Saints' excellent organisation in the defence and protection in front of the back four. 

These tactics do not really exist at Liverpool, certainly not to the same extent, and the high defensive line and offensive full-backs means Lovren is often acting as a deep-lying playmaker as much as a centre-back. 

He is not the only centre-back to have struggled in the post-Rafael Benítez Liverpool era - in fact it is easier to name the successful defenders in that time. 

Yet Lovren especially makes too many individual mistakes, such as the first goal by Sevilla during the recent 2-2 draw in the Champions League group stages. He will likely depart once Klopp can finally secure his ideal defensive targets, such as, ironically, van Dijk.

Verdict: Miss

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Nathaniel Clyne

Arguably the value signing for money among the quintet (only around £12 million), Clyne is arguably the best right-back in the Premier League when it comes to actually defending. 

Going forward is where Clyne struggles, but the England international does provide some much needed balance as a result, which Liverpool have lacked this season. 

Clyne's worrying injury problems this season underlines his importance to Klopp and Liverpoool, despite the promise of youngsters Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold

Consequently, Clyne will have competition when he eventually returns, as Gomez and Alexander-Arnold will only improve with time, but he remains Liverpool's best defender, certainly at full-back, and the Reds will not want to lose him for a long time yet.

Verdict: Hit

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Sadio Mané

Liverpool's most recent signing from Southampton (summer 2016), and without doubt their best. Mané enjoyed a sensational first season at Anfield following his £30 million move, and has ensured that Liverpool emerge with credit from their deals with the Saints overall. 

Mané's pace tormented opposition defences and drove Liverpool's title challenge in the Premier League during the first half of last season. 

His departure to the African Cup of Nations coincided with a dramatic loss of form for the Reds, going out of all competitions and hanging onto a top four spot.

It was not a coincidence, although Liverpool managed to solidly themselves enough to scrape a top four finish, at the expense of Arsenal, after an injury to Mané in March ruled the Senegalese star out for the rest of the season. 

Mané's troublesome injuries has led to worrying comparisons with the likes of Michael Owen and Fernando Torres. Hopefully, Mané can join a mouthwatering attack of new signing Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Lallana and Philippe Coutinho and remain fit for the foreseeable future

One thing is for certain - Mané is not going anywhere, illustrating his successful impact at Anfield.

Verdict: Hit