Ralph Krueger describes it as a “turning point” and to many people outside of Southampton FC, it certainly felt like one. On Tuesday of last week, the club chairman announced that neither Morgan Schneiderlin nor Jay Rodriguez would be leaving St Mary’s. They would not be following the five players who have been sold during the transfer window at a cost of £92.5m. Krueger had pulled down the portcullis.
If any doubt lingered over his stance, particularly with regard to Schneiderlin, who is wanted by Tottenham Hotspur, Krueger stamped it out during his latest interview. “He [Schneiderlin] is not leaving for any money,” Krueger says.
Tottenham are believed to have infuriated Southampton with an offer of £10m for the France midfielder but Krueger said it is “not relevant any more”. Even if Tottenham were to threaten Schneiderlin’s market value, which Saints believe is roughly three times that figure, it would not matter, according to Krueger. Nor does he seem remotely worried about the possibility that he could end up eating his words, what with football and the transfer window being as they are.
Krueger does not do negatives. He even regards the receipt of angry fan mail as a positive. “These people took time to write me a letter to say that I’m a complete idiot,” he says, with a nod towards the outpouring of emotion that followed the sales of the five. “That’s OK. If you can get that passion in line with what you are doing – what an opportunity that is.”
Inside the club, there has been no panic and the turning point of which Krueger speaks relates more to external perception. He talks of “control” and his version of what has been a testing summer has had the club dispense, at premium prices, with a handful of players who no longer wanted to be there. He says that “you cannot begin a Premier League season with half of your starters disgruntled”.
“There have been no wild decisions, nothing has been out of control here,” Krueger says. “We have controlled every deal we have made. We feel comfortable. People from the outside have labelled it a crisis but we don’t see it as a crisis. A crisis would mean we are not in control.”
Schneiderlin, though, wanted to leave and he said so in a meeting last week with the director Les Reed and the chief executive, Gareth Rogers. Why should he be held while others have been sold? Why should his case be different?
Perhaps, it is because Schneiderlin is so central to the football and the formation that the new manager, Ronald Koeman, wants to play. Or, maybe, it is related to the difficulties in dealing with the Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, meaning that Schneiderlin has simply missed the boat that has left St Mary’s.
Krueger disputes the second point. Schneiderlin, he says, was never a part of the conversation about potential departures, as opposed to Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, for instance. It has nothing to do with being the sixth to agitate for a move rather than first.
The bottom line is that Krueger is now looking forward, to what Southampton have and will get over the final weeks of the window and, also, to Schneiderlin’s psychological rehabilitation. He is said to have reapplied himself in training. He is, fundamentally, a decent bloke.
“These kind of circumstances are normal in a dressing-room,” Krueger says. “If a player isn’t first-choice for three weeks, you have an unhappy player. For me it is the same as any uncomfortable situation. It’s part of the game. We have contracts. We respect our side of contracts and players need to respect their side.”
Southampton are close to the loan signing of the midfielder Saphir Taider
from Internazionale – the unwanted striker Dani Osvaldo will go the other way on loan – and they continue to chase the Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster and others. Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pellè and Ryan Bertrand have arrived but much more remains to be done.
“I totally feel for the fan-base because they cannot have all the information that we have and so they cannot have the comfort we have,” Krueger says. “If they could spend some time on the inside, they would really feel a lot better. They have been through a hard time but there are good times ahead. The goal is to be stronger at the end of the window than we were last season. Will that happen? I believe we have a really good chance of it.”