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Football: Saints prove easy prey in World Cup shop window

The World Cup has ripped the heart out of rags-to-riches English Premier League side Southampton who could lose nearly half their first team who featured in the tournament.

LONDON: The World Cup has ripped the heart out of rags-to-riches English Premier League side Southampton who could lose nearly half their first team who featured in the tournament.

But after the departure of the likes of Luke Shaw, the world's most expensive teenager, new manager Ronald Koeman has the silver lining of a transfer war chest estimated at 100 million pounds (US$170 million) plus.

Shaw, striker Rickie Lambert and captain Adam Lallana all departed after playing bit part roles for England at the World Cup. The Saints got about £30 million from Manchester United for 18-year-old Shaw and another £30 million in total from Liverpool for Lambert and Lallana.

Centre back Dejan Lovren, who played for Croatia, aroused the fury of fans by declaring he also wants to go to Liverpool -- who reportedly had a £20 million bid rejected.

There are suspicions that France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who has a similar price tag, also wants to jump ship.

Amid widespread anger over their loyalty, former Saints and England striker Matt Le Tissier said Lovren should "keep his trap shut" about his ambitions.

The exodus announcements were like "a knife through the heart of everyone who loves the club," said the local Southern Daily Echo newspaper.

One Saints fan set up a Facebook page to apologise to English referee Mark Clattenberg who had earlier faced fan abuse over a verbal clash with Lallana.

-- Romantic rebound --

Southampton have bounced back in impressive fashion from bankruptcy five years ago, rising from the third tier of English football in three seasons.

They have an academy that has produced Shaw, along with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale and England's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.

The rot started when they finished eighth in their second season back in the Premier League this year. They were praised for their youth-inspired direct, attacking football.

Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino went off to Tottenham Hotspur in May and it soon became clear that star players would be poached.

New manager Koeman -- a member of the Dutch side that won the 1988 European Championships who this week splashed about £10 million of his war chest on Serbian attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic -- says the Saints can keep on surprising their rivals in England and Europe.

Koeman, who left Dutch side Feyenoord at the end of the season, called the signing of 25-year-old Tadic from FC Twente in the Netherlands a "great signal" after the trauma of losing so many players.

"It was very important to get this signing done - not only for me, but for the rest of the squad and for our fans," added the 51-year-old, who also won the European Cup as a player with Barcelona in 1992.

"We have lost some good players, but we want to continue the ambition and philosophy of the club," he added.

"Last season it was a fantastic season for Southampton FC and we would like to continue with that," said Koeman.

The team should "continue what they did maybe reach something more, to win prizes, maybe one day to play the European Cup, I think that has to be the next step for Southampton FC," declared the coach.

Koeman said more cash would be spent in coming weeks and the team have been linked to players in England and Europe, but none yet with the reputation of Shaw and the other ex-Saints.

And Koeman will get an early view of the team's new heart: they must play Liverpool with Lallana and Lambert in their first match of the season on August 16.

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