Exodus! Turmoil! Meltdown! Most of today's back pages carry stories about Southampton, a club in crisis after the resignation of Nicola Cortese. It is widely believed that the chairman's exit from St Mary's will prompt a mass exodus of management and top players, with boss Mauricio Pochettino set to quit and the likes of Luke Shaw and Rickie Lambert also expected to leave.
The Daily Mail reports that Pochettino has vowed to leave Southampton in support of Cortese’s decision to resign, but he is expected to remain in charge for Saturday's Premier League clash with Sunderland. The paper adds that even if the Argentine agrees to stay on after that match, he is likely to leave at the end of the season.
The Daily Mirror reports that West Ham are to make a renewed bid for England striker Rickie Lambert, with the 31-year-old "one of a string of players now considering their futures". West Ham have been monitoring developments on the south coast and are now ready to pounce, with funding coming from the sale of Ravel Morrison.
Another player set to leave St Mary's is Luke Shaw, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City preparing for a bidding war, reports the Daily Telegraph. The England U21 left-back, valued at £20 million, had previously stressed he wants to stay until at least the summer, his camp will now review the situation. The paper adds that offers are now expected for Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Morgan Schneiderlin and Dejan Lovren too.
Paper Round's view: Another fine mess at a football club that had worked so hard to reach the Premier League but now stands on the cusp of crisis. It's amazing to think how quickly things can turn around, and Pochettino is right to feel aggrieved. It's also understandable that his players, who it seems had a great deal of respect for Cortese, are concerned about the future. The only consolation for Saints fans at the moment is that Shaw will likely command a decent fee. But that's not really any consolation at all for a club that could be on the brink of implosion.
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Spurs attempt to block Arsenal bid for Draxler: In a rather convoluted way, Tottenham are to foil Arsenal's attempts to sign Julian Draxler by vetoing Lewis Holtby’s move to Schalke. The Daily Mirror reports that Schalke want a loan deal for their old boy Holtby as a replacement for Draxler, after admitting they could not stand in the way if a club triggered the 20-year-old’s £37million release clause this month. Spurs, still smarting from the fact that their sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid that paved the way for Mesut Ozil to move to Arsenal last summer, want to do everything they can to avoid their local rivals acquiring another top player.
Paper Round's view: Given the bitter rivalry between Tottenham and Arsenal, it appears to be a rather petty ploy by Spurs to get under the Gunners' skin. But it's actually a smart move, considering the current disparity between the two clubs. If the benchmark of Tottenham's progress is Arsenal - which conceivably it is - it makes sense to thwart any efforts their rivals make to strengthen their squad and increase the gap. Unlucky for Holtby that he has become a pawn in all this, but he could always go somewhere else.
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FA under pressure over Anelka's 'quenelle': The Independent reports that the FA is coming under increasing pressure to act on the Nicolas Anelka 'quenelle' case after a leading Jewish lobby group told the paper of the “growing frustration and incomprehension” at the length of time the inquiry was taking. It is now nearly three weeks since the West Brom striker made the gesture and the FA investigation is yet to conclude. The FA said they were talking to an “appointed expert” on the matter and will not make any further comment until Monday at the earliest.
Paper Round's view: If the FA's silence is down to the ruling body thinking this issue will just slide away, they're very much mistaken. The ramifications of their judgement will be widespread and surely they must know that the right decision has to be made. Here's hoping that's why they're taking so long.
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