Liverpool eye chance of reopening £171m transfer tunnel as cult hero considers return

Jurgen Klopp and Adam Lallana flourished as a duo during the early reign of the German’s Anfield tenure (Image: GETTY)

Liverpool’s go-to ‘feeder’ club, Southampton, has made a triumphant return to the Premier League. The Saints secured their spot in the English top-flight on Sunday after a 1-0 victory over Leeds United at Wembley in the play-off final.

This comes just a year after they suffered relegation and ended the season with a 4-4 draw against Liverpool at St. Mary’s.

Southampton and Liverpool have a long history of business dealings during the modern Premier League era. FSG, Liverpool’s owners, have approved no less than six signings from Southampton during their tenure at Anfield.

Between the summer of 2014 and January 2018, Southampton raked in £171m from Liverpool as the Reds signed Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane, and club-record signing Virgil van Dijk. Including Peter Crouch’s £7m transfer in the summer of 2005, this total reaches £178m.

During the same period, Liverpool also acquired Steven Caulker on loan from Queens Park Rangers after his temporary stint with the Saints was cut short, and former Southampton academy graduate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a £35m deal.

However, it hasn’t been a one-way street. Danny Ings joined Southampton in a £20m deal in July 2019 after a successful season on loan, and the Saints signed Takumi Minamino on loan in January 2021.

It’s clear that both clubs have become adept at negotiating with each other.

Liverpool are reportedly eyeing a swoop for Southampton’s Alex McCarthy as they look to bolster their goalkeeping options this summer.

The former England international, who ended the season as the top choice under manager Russell Martin, played a key role in securing promotion and is now on Liverpool’s radar with his contract set to expire. Despite the Reds’ potential interest and the uncertainty surrounding the futures of Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian at Anfield, Martin is hopeful that McCarthy will commit to a new deal at St Mary’s.

After their triumph at Wembley, Martin spoke to the Southern Daily Echo, acknowledging the inevitable interest in his players: “I know that there will be offers for all of them and probably offers that will pay them more than we can,” he said. “Hopefully the feeling they have and all that stuff will outweigh financial gain but maybe there’ll be other things about it too.”

Reflecting on McCarthy’s contribution, Martin expressed regret for not bringing him into play sooner, praising the strength of the goalkeeping department which includes Gavin Bazunu and Joe Lumley. “Big Al [McCarthy], I guess I’m a bit of an idiot for not playing a bit sooner, but I think we have such a brilliant goalkeeping department here with Gavin [Bazunu] and Joe [Lumley] as well. I’m so pleased for Al that it finished in this way. As I said, maybe it was meant to happen that he came into the team at some point.”

Martin lauded McCarthy’s impact since joining the starting lineup: “He’s been immense since he came in so we’ll try and keep Al as well and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. It’s my job now to try and squeeze more money out of Phil [Parsons, CEO] and the board and everyone and see where it takes us.”

Liverpool’s potential move for McCarthy remains uncertain, but one ex-Red, Adam Lallana, could be set for a sentimental return to Southampton following their promotion. Lallana is revered at Southampton, having achieved consecutive promotions from League One to the Premier League with the club and also clinched the Football League Trophy in 2010 before his £25m transfer to Liverpool in 2014.

Under Jurgen Klopp, who took over in October 2015, the midfielder flourished, winning the Champions League, Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, and European Super Cup during his six-year stint at Anfield. Despite scoring 22 goals and providing 21 assists in 178 appearances for Liverpool, Lallana recently confessed on Brighton’s YouTube channel that he initially felt out of place at Liverpool until Klopp turned his fortunes around.

“I remember my first year at Liverpool I was like: ‘I don’t belong here’,” Lallana revealed. “I remember thinking: ‘I need to somehow survive this first year at Liverpool’ because I felt like I didn’t belong.”

He added: “I was speaking to Hinch’s [Jack Hinshelwood] dad out there today about how sometimes lads from Saints [Southampton], Brighton and the ‘nice clubs’ turn up for England international duty. Around all the big players from London teams, they struggle to be themselves because it can be overwhelming with the big boys there, earning more money.

“There was a little bit of that [at] Liverpool with me coming from Southampton. I was rubbing shoulders with Stevie G [Gerrard] in the dressing room. I struggled training with Stevie G because it was Stevie G. I’m honest to say: ‘I’m not sure I belong here’.”

In a farewell video for Klopp, ahead of his final game as Liverpool manager earlier this month, Lallana also credited his former manager for transforming his fortunes after he admitted that he ‘didn’t feel comfortable in the dressing room, on the pitch, in the kit’ when he first arrived at Liverpool.

“Straight away he took that away,” Lallana said. “Straight away. And I’ll never forget that.”

Still a popular player at Anfield, Lallana left the Reds to join Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of his contract after winning the Premier League back in 2020. And now, four years on, the 36 year old is a free agent again after leaving the Seagulls at the end of his contract.

And having watched his former club win promotion at Wembley on Sunday, the Telegraph reports that Lallana is now in talks regarding a sensational return to St. Mary’s – 10 years on from his initial £25m move to Liverpool.

While at times booed by supporters of his former club when facing them with the Reds, few could begrudge Lallana the success he went on to enjoy at Anfield. And now a decade on, his career could be about to go full circle after leaving Liverpool as an English, European, and world champion.

However, the former England international could now be set for a sensational return to his former club after being released by Brighton at the end of the season. The 36 year old is reportedly in talks with Southampton, the club he left for Liverpool in 2014 for a fee of £25 million.

Lallana enjoyed a successful six-year spell at Anfield, winning the Premier League, Champions League, and FIFA Club World Cup. He also made 34 appearances for England, scoring three goals.

During their £171m splurge on Southampton players, Liverpool were often ridiculed for their frequent shopping at St. Mary’s and accused of overpaying.

However, the success of Van Dijk and Mane altered that perception, and Lallana’s own evolution at Anfield further justified the expenditure, especially as he contemplates a free transfer return to his former club.