BBC commentator John Motson has questioned Everton's status as a bigger club than Southampton and insisted on BBC Radio 5 Live that Ronald Koeman's first priority if named Toffees boss will have to be keeping hold of John Stones, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.
Koeman is expected to leave the south coast to take over as the successor to Toffees manager Roberto Martinez this summer with reports intensifying that a deal is edging closer to being agreed between the two clubs.
The Dutch boss has impressed greatly in his two years in England since taking over from the popular Mauricio Pochettino at St. Mary's, maintaining their position in the top eight and leading them to a first top-six finish since 1985 in his second campaign.
In contrast, under the now-sacked Roberto Martinez, Everton suffered a second consecutive season outside of the top half of the table, with much of what was good at Goodison Park this term being based on the performances of Stones, Lukaku, and Barkley.
Between them, Lukaku and Barkley racked up 37 goals and 14 assists, while Stones, though inconsistent, cemented his status as one of the best English centre-backs in his first full season as a bona fide first choice for the Toffees.
Motson is adamant that keeping hold of the trio will be of paramount importance for whoever is named as Everton manager, but suggested that the Merseyside club should no longer be viewed as a bigger club than the Saints.
The commentator told BBC Radio 5 Live: "For anybody taking over Everton from Roberto Martinez, whether it's Koeman or anybody else, your first priority is to try to keep Stones, Lukaku, Barkley and your best players. That's your starting point.
"Will he go? I guess Everton are a big club, if we can use that expression. I don't know why we say that because they're not in the top six, Southampton are. It's not a straightforward decision."
It remains to be seen whether Koeman will decide that his future lies at Goodison Park rather than St. Mary's, with all the signs thus far seeming to suggest that he is set on making the move to Merseyside.