The increasingly bitter Youssef Safri saga duly ended today as the Moroccan midfielder joined Southampton on a two-year deal.
City boss Peter Grant was right – he would never play for him again after a furious Canary chief accused the 30-year-old of telling the Press ?a pack of lies? as to how much he wanted to stay in Norfolk and how much he loved the Carrow Road club.
For after a summer-long link to Tony Mowbray's Baggies, it was actually Saints boss George Burley who rode to everyone's rescue this lunchtime as the official Southampton site first announced today's switch for ?an undisclosed fee?.
Much like his former Portman Road player-coach Mowbray, you suspect that George saw something of the Jim Magilton's in Safri as he became his fourth signing of the summer.
?I'm very pleased that we've signed Youssef as he's a player that I've admired for a long time,? Burley told www.saintsfc.co.uk.
?He's a good passer of the ball and a decent playmaker in midfield.
?He's an experienced player having played for Coventry and Norwich. He's also an international, so all in all he's a very valuable addition to the squad,? added the former Town boss. ?He's not bad at set-plays either so there are a lot of aspects to Safri's game.?
One of which involves him disappearing for the better part of five weeks next January as the 2008 African Cup of Nations kicks in; he will also, in every likelihood, disappear for this autumn's warm-up games as the whole club versus country debate becomes someone else's problem.
Safri's exit was, in fairness, always a transfer waiting to happen; it was why Julien Brellier arrived here in the first place; the two players are too similar to naturally play alongside eachother. Even in a midfield three, you sense that they would have trod on eachother's toes.
And nor did Safri play as high up the pitch as Grant clearly wanted; he was – courtesy of his passing ability – far more of a back-foot first type of player; Grant has, almost from the off, demanded that his Canary side get on the front foot more often; squeeze the ball nearer, if not in, the opposition half – something that never, ever sat easily with Safri's way of either playing or thinking.
It was a clash of footballing philosophies and styles that was always likely to lead to a parting of the ways. The Birmingham Evening Mail had even suggested that it was only a difference in wage demands that had stalled his move to The Hawthorns.
A move that Grant knew nothing about as he waited for the phone to ring Earnie and Etuhu-like with the news that 'By the way, can we talk to the player…' – all in the full and certain knowledge that somewhere behind his back, an agent would have already done the deal.
It was that expectation that kept niggling away in Grant's mind as he tried to bed down a settled and happy side in the run-up to the start of the new season.
Hence his simple answer to a simple question on Tuesday night: Did he want the whole thing nipped in the bud? ?Yep,? he said.
Less than 48 hours later – and with tomorrow night's Vitesse Arnhem game looming large in both the player and the manager's mind – and Grant's wish was granted.
?I'm glad the situation has been resolved quickly,? the City boss told the Norwich City official site this afternoon.
?Saf has wanted to leave Carrow Road since my second day in the job and now he's finally got his wish.?
With only a year left to run on his existing Canary deal and with all parties knowing that a move out of the city was the best course of action for all concerned, the final fee is likely to finish somewhere in the region of ?250,000-?300,000.
Certainly that was the feeling on the South Coast where with the no-show of Microsoft's billionaire owner Paul Allen, money has been distinctly hard to come by – even with some big name exits.
And where is Southampton's first away game of the season? Where else but sunny Carrow Road on Saturday, August 18.
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