Feyenoord, Southampton, Ronald Koeman and the irony of exodus

Despite Ajax dominating Dutch football over the last four seasons and finishing as champions, Feyenoord have largely been the Amsterdam-based outfit’s closest rivals.

The historic De Kuip outfit has suffered contrasting fortunes since their last Eredivisie triumph in 1999, but the appointment of Ronald Koeman in July 2011 has seen Feyenoord on the cusp of returning to former glories.

In three seasons under the retired ex-Netherlands international’s tutelage, the Rotterdam club finished second twice and third; the season before Koeman was appointed Feyenoord ended up tenth.

However, after captivating followers of the Dutch game with ambitious football and nurturing gifted youth academy products into the club’s first team, Koeman has decided to end his time at De Kuip.

The 51-year-old has replaced Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton and will be charged with replicating the expansive outlook adopted by the Argentine over his 16-month tenure at St Mary’s.

Koeman’s departure will be a major blow for Feyenoord, who have also suffered the loss of four of their main stars this summer after their coming of age at both club and international level.

Hotshot Italian striker Graziano Pellè was the first big name to leave the Dutch side, following Koeman to the Saints last month.

Within a week, Netherlands international pair Bruno Indi Martins and Daryl Janmaat followed suit, signing for Porto and Newcastle respectively.

Ronald KoemanArguably the most damaging of the on-field departures occurred last week, as talisman Stefan de Vrij finally made the inevitable move overseas, joining Lazio.

Although experienced campaigner Khalid Boulahrouz and Luke Wilshere have been brought in on a free transfers in an effort to stem the flow, new manager Fred Rutten has a job on his hands without the outgoing quartet this season.

As is the nature of all Eredivisie clubs, Feyenoord are in a position where they are relatively powerless to stop their top players moving abroad if a willing suitor is ready to pay good money.

The €30 million recouped by selling the four players will go a long way to safeguarding the club’s finances, but challenging for the title again in 2014-15 may well be out of the question as a result.

Koeman may well have realised that it was the right time to take on a new challenge, as the continued presence of Feyenoord’s top players at De Kuip had become untenable.

The irony however is that the player exodus that his former club has experienced has been virtually imitated at Southampton.

The impressive Saints squad that finished eighth in the Premier League last term, winning plenty of plaudits along the way, has been pillaged by the top teams of English football this summer.

The loss of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers is just as significant and damaging as the fate suffered by Feyenoord over the last month.

Although Koeman has brought in Pellè, supremely gifted attacking midfielder Dušan Tadić and signed Ryan Bertrand on loan, it seems that Southampton need to spend more of the significant amount of money made from player sales this summer.

However, another comparison of Koeman’s former and new clubs is their track record of producing excellent players through their respective youth academies.

Although it is likely that the Saints will bring in another player or two before the transfer window closes at the end of this month, the club and its new manager could well be set to rely on the next generation of young talent coming through the ranks.

In that regard, although Koeman is new to English football, the philosophy of Southampton is not dissimilar to Feyenoord and the Dutchman may well be the ideal man to limit the impact of mass player exodus at St Mary’s during the off-season.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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