30/06/2014: Adam Lallana moves to Liverpool
Up until about three months ago you'd have confidently staked everything you own on Adam Lallana remaining a Saints player for the rest of his career. While he never once stated he'd definitely be at the club for life, he did say several times that he'd have no regrets if he never moved away. He probably did genuinely mean it at the time too. A lot has changed since Lallana signed a new contract back in April 2013, both for him personally and at the club itself.
Lallana rebuffed interest from other clubs in the past. He signed a long term deal when Saints were in League One, at a time when he could have easily manoeuvred his way to a mid-table Premier League side of his choice. The player rightly believed he could soon reach that level with Saints, and was quickly vindicated. When Lallana put pen to paper last year, staying at St Marys for the long term seemed like a no-brainer. He was more than happy at the upwardly mobile club he had been with for his entire adult life, and there had been no concrete interest from any of the Premier League's big fish.
Coming in to the 2013/14 season there seemed no limit to Saints' potential. The squad was packed full of young talent. The amount of interest that has been generated recently demonstrates how much quality there was within the ranks. Up until January this year there hadn't even been a hint of unrest. Saints looked to be well on course to at least reach the level of European chasing overachievers Everton, if not even greater heights. With prospects like that, it's understandable why Lallana and others were so certain when committing themselves for the long term. There really was no better place to be. Things are a lot different now, however. Nicola Cortese has gone, and the new board have been unable to develop that same understanding and relationship with the players. The club that sold just one player during Cortese's 2009-2014 administration have already tripled that figure, and it's not even July yet. Mauricio Pochettino's departure only added to the uncertainty. At best Saints are entering a transitional rebuilding stage. At worse they could be heading towards a downwards spiral. That was not the plan when Lallana signed his new contract. Saints are no longer that best he can do.
While Saints certainly would have stood a much better chance of keeping Lallana had things at the club remained exactly as they were a year ago, it's not completely inconceivable that he would still have wanted away, given the rapid progress he made on the pitch during the last 12 months. Lallana is clearly a very confident man, but after an up-and-down first season in the top flight, even he probably couldn't have foreseen a Premier League heavyweight making a serious play for him. He famously booked his wedding for the World Cup, so he obviously was expecting his profile to rise quite so dramatically. Now that he's had a taste of top level football with England, it's understandable that he might want more.
Is it the right move for Lallana? There are good arguments to be made either way. At his age (26) and this stage in his career he may never have a better chance to make the jump. His stock is at an all-time high right now, but all it would take is one average season for it to completely plummet. Liverpool are seemingly moving in the right direction, having come so close to that elusive Premier League title last season. With Champions League football also on offer, you can understand why Lallana was so eager to get involved while the chance was there.
There's no guarantee he'll be better off at Liverpool. Dozens of players have made the step-up from middle ranking teams to Champions League outfits and failed to succeed. The likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Young looked like world-beaters before switching to the elite, where they quickly became joke figures. Liverpool's playing style does seem like a good fit for Lallana, and Brendan Rodgers has a good track record of improving individuals through coaching, but even so, it's not completely beyond the realms of possibility that Lallana could get lost in the shuffle at Anfield. Liverpool already possess a vast array of attacking talent. With the additional Champions League programme he'll certainly get some playing time, but it'll be tough to permanently dislodge Raheem Sterling, Coutinho and other potential recruits from the starting line-up. He's obviously a very talented player, but it's easy to forget that he's only had one great season in top-flight football.
His performances will be examined a lot more closely than they were at St Marys too. That's not a bad thing if everything is going well of course, but a bad run of form could damage his reputation and ruin his England chances. Lallana was able to ride out the brief bad periods with ease at Saints, but might not find it quite so easy at Anfield where the attention will be magnified. For all the changes at Staplewood this summer, there's an argument to be made that Lallana still would have had it good as a big fish in a medium sized pond. He's already a club legend, but could have enhanced his legacy further to become a Matt Le Tissier god like figure. If he lights up the Champions League and starts to lift trophies at Liverpool then it will all be worth it, but you could argue it's a bit of a gamble to give up what he had at Saints.
This site was due to review Lallana's 2013/14 contributions as the final part of the player review series. It seems pretty pointless to go over all that now, but suffice to say he was by far and away our most impressive performer last season, and deservedly scooped all the prizes at the end of season awards. Lallana drove Saints on with his skill, drive and leadership. He was clearly well respected within the dressing room, and will be missed hugely on and off the pitch.
The level of vitriol that's been aimed at Lallana by some fans in recent days is uncalled for, given all he's achieved. It's especially unfair when you consider Rickie Lambert departed to universal good will. There was very little difference in the way the deals went down. Both asked to go, having previously committed their future to Saints. Lallana might have pushed for it a bit more, but that was only because the club took a slightly stronger stance with him than they did with Lambert. Wanting Champions League football is just as valid a reason for wanting out as going to play for your boyhood club. The end result is the same thing. Lallana did as much, if not more than Lambert on the pitch. His efforts for Saints should override anything that's gone on recently. There have been lesser players who have done a lot worse who are still looked upon fondly by the St Marys crowd. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did a lot more to engineer a move and a lot less on the pitch, yet still receives a hero's welcome when he returns to St Marys. Lallana is up there with the very best to have ever worn red and white, and stayed loyal for many years. He deserves as much respect as Lambert from the Saints fans who travel to Anfield on the opening weekend.
2000: Moves to Saints' academy from Bournemouth's centre of excellence at the age of 12
2004-06: Helps Saints U18s to consecutive league titles, an FA Youth Cup final and a semi-final
August 2006: Makes his senior Saints debut in the League Cup against Yeovil
October 2007: Returns to Bournemouth for a brief loan spell
April 2008: Helps Saints survive relegation to League 1, scoring in the penultimate game of the season against West Brom
August 2008: Becomes a regular starter at St Marys, signing a new three year contract in the process
September 2008: Scores a fine individual goal in a 4-1 defeat at QPR
April 2009: Saints relegated to League 1, with Lallana unable to maintain his early promise during the latter half of 2008/09
October 2009: Hits the ground running in League 1, with doubles against Gillingham and Southend
November 2009: Cements his place as a future star with a spectacular showing at Hartlepool
March 2010: Scores in the 4-1 Football League Trophy final win over Carlisle
May 2010: Becomes the first non-centre forward since Matt Le Tissier to net 20 goals in a season
January 2011: Signs a new bumper deal until 2015, having fired Saints up the League 1 table, following a difficult start
May 2011: Named Players' player of the season for 2010/11 as Saints won promotion back to the Championship
August 2011: Lights up the Championship from the off with goals against Leeds and Ipswich shooting Saints to the top
December 2011: Makes his 150th appearance for the club in the 1-1 draw at Portsmouth
April 2012: Caps a fine 2011/12 by helping Saints secure promotion with a goal in the 4-0 win over Coventry
September 2012: Wins his first senior England call-up, appearing as an unused substitute against Ukraine
April 2013: Signs a new five year contract at the end of an up-and-down season
November 2013: Scores a classy solo effort against Hull and wins his first England cap in a defeat to Chile
Early 2014: Consistently stands out as one of the Premier League's top performers, impressing against Arsenal and Fulham to mention just a couple
May 2014: Cleans up at the end of season awards, netting all the prizes for best player
June 2014: Appears in all three of England's World Cup games, albeit twice as a late substitute
June 2014: Completes his acrimonious departure from St Marys, following weeks of speculation