If Danny Ings were a meme right now, he’d be the one where the guy is walking in one direction with what we’re led to believe is his partner, while rubbernecking to check out another girl passing by.
In this case however, we’re not talking about human attraction. “First thing” is Southampton, “subject” is Danny Ings, and “second thing” is Manchester City.
It’s hard to believe, but while every man and his dog have been linking the Citizens with the lavish and expensive signings of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland, it is the name of Southampton’s very own goal hero which rings loudest around the Etihad stadium.
The word on the street is that Man City are keen to snap up Ings from Saints in the summer transfer window, and it would be no less than he deserved, having fought back from serious injury after serious injury to demonstrate exactly why Liverpool took a gamble on him in 2015.
Although he has certainly earned a second shot at the big time – and no one would begrudge him a move to the soon-to-be Premier League champions off the back of three impressive years on the south coast – those three chastening seasons at Anfield should serve as a warning to the 28-year-old.
Ings’ relentless injury woes left him with a record of 14 league appearances and three strikes over the course of 36 months with Liverpool, although his fitness issues were not the sole reason for his goal-shy tally.
The deadly striker managed eight appearances in his final campaign with the Reds, scoring once, but he was relatively injury-free during that year. However, he was forced to play second fiddle to Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and when he did get onto the pitch, he was often utilised in wide areas, rather than in his favoured central role.
Now, it has to be said, that Liverpool’s forward line is a tough nut to crack, and no one has come close to disrupting them over the past four seasons. But then again, will he get more chances at Man City?
Unlikely. Even if Sergio Aguero opts to leave the Premier League this summer, and Guardiola decides Gabriel Jesus is not the man to take the reins up top, Ings may still struggle to work his way into the coach’s plans.
After all, the Spaniard has often reverted to playing a false nine without a recognised striker on the pitch – a system which has drawn the very best out of midfielders Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
And then there’s the matter of the unique Guardiola-ball, which even some of the best and most gifted footballers struggle to acclimatise towards, ultimately being forced to look elsewhere in search of a happy home.
Ings has got a good thing going at Southampton, where he is considered a big fish in a small pond, and the rest of the team plays precisely to his strengths. After three years of misery, this subsequent trio of seasons with Southampton have been just the tonic for the forward, convincing Ralph Hasenhuttl to build the team around him with 42 goals in 92 matches.
With a record like that, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Man City have come knocking, especially when his price tag would be hugely reduced compared to other targets.
While Saints do have their ups and downs, there are fewer more stable mid-table teams in the division, who could also push to the brink of European qualification with some decent investment. Without their main striker however, Southampton may fall back into bottom half obscurity.
Southampton are a much worse side without Ings, and he himself has shown to be a quality player in this Southampton team.
Having learned that the grass is not always greener during his time on Merseyside, the forward shouldn’t simply jump at the next opportunity to climb the ladder. Instead, he should stop and smell the roses, and remember that finding a happy home is more important than moving to a luxurious castle.
No one knows that better than Ings himself.