It was a better time. Southampton are a mere shadow of the imperious outfit that rose from the din of the middle of the Premier League pack and waged war against the affluence of the supposed big boys of the division.

Ascending to prominence under Mauricio Pochettino, with the baton perfectly handed to Ronald Koeman, Saints clinched Europe in successive seasons, captivating supporters with their play and birthing some of football’s most distinguished contemporary stars.

Indeed, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana all departed St. Mary’s Stadium for Liverpool, while Luke Shaw joined Manchester United in 2014 for £27m at just 18 years old.

The crafting and cementation of the club for four campaigns was a remarkable achievement, while reaching the Europa League group phase in 2016/17, albeit falling flat, provided European nights to a fanbase striving for promotion from League One a little over half a decade prior.

It’s a far cry from the current crop, battered but brazen in their fight to stave off relegation, defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and drawing to Man United at Old Trafford in recent weeks, but still confined to the relegation zone for 13 successive match-weeks.

With the recent draw against the ten-man Red Devils illuminating the woes in front of goal, Southampton mustering 17 shots to no avail on the day, the shining talisman of the former unit, Graziano Pelle, would be a coveted item on the south coast right now.

How did Pelle perform at Southampton?

In 2014, Koeman signed 28-year-old striker Pelle from Feyenoord for around £9m, with the Italian powerhouse having flourished in the Dutch Eredivisie the season prior, scoring 23 goals and providing six assists from 28 appearances.

The 20-cap former Italy international would go on to plunder 30 goals and ten assists from 80 displays for Saints, notably boasting tallies of 12 and 11 across his two Premier League campaigns in 2014/15 and 2o15/16, integral in giving the club its maiden taste of Europe.

Lauded for an innate knack at “humiliating” defences by BBC chief football writer Phil McNulty, Pelle recorded averages of 3.2 and 2.7 shots per game over his two terms in English football, as per WhoScored, also winning a remarkable 4.7 and 3.7 average headers, such was his dominance in the airspace of the pitch.

Such prolific exploits would leave the marksman heralded as “magical” by Tifo Football, with Koeman waxing lyrical over the forward when the pair were still affiliated with the outfit, saying: “Graziano we know is a very good striker, scoring goals, strong.

“I said before, it’s my opinion [he’s] one of the best in the Premier League.”

The colossus would also perhaps flourish with current captain James Ward-Prowse’s skill set deployed behind his own; as per Sofascore, five of Pelle’s 11 league strikes in the 15/16 term were headed efforts, and partnering that with his aforementioned aerial dominance, the results could have been cataclysmic for the rest of the division.

Ward-Prowse, now 28-years-old, was only at the maiden phase of his career when alongside Pelle in the Saints squad, and was a far more unrefined commodity, now hailed as a “set-piece master” by broadcaster Maximiliano Bretos, making an average 2.2 key passes and two crosses per league match this year.

Star striker Che Adams has found the back of the net in the top flight just twice from his past 21 outings, with the club too often dependant on the deal-ball wizardry of stalwart Ward-Prowse.

With Pelle at the front of the attack – unflinching, imposing, imperious – Selles could rest easier knowing his beleaguered outfit wielded such a devastating centre-forward.


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