Southampton have made a bold move to overhaul their player recruitment by approaching one of the leading figures at Manchester City’s academy – Joe Shields – to take charge of first-team player trading.
Shields, 35, has been a key figure in turning City into one of the two most formidable youth operations in the Premier League, recruiting the likes of Jadon Sancho and Michael Olise since first joining the club as their chief scout for southern England in 2013. He is the leading candidate for the new head of senior recruitment at Saints.
Originally at Crystal Palace, where he was the assistant head of recruitment for the club’s academy, Shields has established a strong track record at City in signing boys who have progressed into the first team and also generated good fees. He is the first major recruitment figure Southampton have approached since the takeover by Serbian businessman Dragan Šolak whose Sport Republic group are looking at a similar multi-club approach to the City Football Group, albeit it on a smaller scale.
The overhaul of Southampton is being led by Sport Republic chief executive Rasmus Ankersen, formerly Brentford director of football, and his first hire is to replace Martyn Glover, who has left his role as head of scouting and recruitment to join Leicester City. Given notice periods it is unlikely that Glover’s replacement will be able to join the club this window.
Ankersen has already made major changes to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s coaching staff, with the post-season departures of Craig Fleming, Kelvin Davis and Dave Watson. The club are aware that there is major work to be done on the first-team squad itself with loanee striker Armando Broja, who played 32 league games this season, returning to parent club Chelsea.
The club are hoping to build a new team around key players James Ward-Prowse, Kyle Walker-Peters and Tino Livramento but there is a lot of work to be done beyond that.
Of the many talented schoolboys Shields have recruited at City, Southampton have just signed Gavin Bazunu, 20, the Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper who was on loan at Portsmouth last season. The club are also interested in signing Romeo Lavia, the 18-year-old City midfielder whom Shields recruited from Anderlecht in 2020.
Among others signed by Shields at City are Liam Delap, Finley Burns, Luke Mbete and Ben Knight who have both made first-team debuts under Pep Guardiola. The likes of Taylor Richards, now at Brighton, and Jayden Braaf and Jamie Brynoe-Gittens, both now at Borussia Dortmund, were all signed from City. Generating fees and training compensation payments for out of contract players is a key part of City’s academy strategy.