Hull City manager Steve Bruce declared Southampton the best team outside the Premier League's established elite following his side's 4-1 humbling at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Adam Lallana was the star, joining Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis on the scoresheet for the rampant hosts, and the Tigers boss was in awe of the forward, whom he revealed he had tried to sign for Sunderland when the Saints were in League One.
"Sometimes you have to hold your hand up and say we were well beaten," Bruce told the press. "You have to give credit to Southampton.
"Apart from the obvious ones in this division, who are always going to be looking at the top four, for me they're the best side outside of that by a country distance. They're a very, very good side.
"We tried to warn the players all week – we'd seen them blow away Fulham the last time they were [at home] – and you can see why they've got three England players in their squad. They were terrific and [Lallana] is an exceptionally good player.
"How far can they go? The big thing is: Can they maintain their players to stay fit? You'd have to say [Dejan] Lovren, [Jay] Rodriguez and [Rickie] Lambert would cause any team problems.
"And Lallana ... I went to watch him four years ago when he played at Carlisle in League One when I was up at Sunderland but the lad wanted to stay here and they've reaped the benefits of that. He's got a big future – he's an exceptionally gifted footballer.
"It's fantastic for Southampton, after the problems they've had in recent years. They've got a good team and they'll get in the top half of the division very comfortably.
"You have to say, looking from the outside, when they're buying centre-backs for £10m, [Victor] Wanyama for £12m, [Dani] Osvaldo for £15m: Maybe they're not a small club any more. Maybe they have got enough about them to compete at the top end of the division."
Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino was delighted, hailing an "amazing performance" from his charges but unsurprised by the brilliance of Lallana, who was celebrating a call-up to the England squad.
"I'm not surprised at all," the Argentine remarked. "Ever since we arrived, I've seen how well he trains - he works very hard every day – and I think, little by little, he's showing the amazing football that he has inside. He has great talent."