04 March 2022

Ralph Hasenhuttl hopes Southampton’s improved form will persuade players to stay

04 March 2022

Ralph Hasenhuttl hopes Southampton’s key men will now feel they can wait a little longer before thinking about moving on to further their careers.

The Saints are on an upward trajectory following an unbeaten run of seven matches through all competitions, which has pushed them into the top half of the Premier Leagues as well as the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Hasenhuttl takes his well-drilled squad to Aston Villa on Saturday, when they are set to come up against former striker Danny Ings, who left in the summer in a £30million deal.

Denmark defender Jannik Vestergaard also departed during August, joining Leicester.

While Hasenhuttl can understand the desire for a player to better themselves, the Austrian believes the outlook for a prolonged stay at St Mary’s should now appear much more appealing.

“It is not about was it the right or wrong decision letting (players) go. We were without alternatives with what we did in the summer, to be honest,” the Saints boss said.

“I think we have now a situation which is a very good learning atmosphere here at the moment, everybody improves, everybody has a positive effect. This is not something normally naturally given in this business.

“You have tough moments and we also had those here, where it is not so nice to be in this club. But at the moment you can feel that the team is growing and we are in a very good flow I think.

“That doesn’t mean that super-talented guys have to stay with us for the next 10 years. Everybody is ambitious and wants one time in his life to come to a top club.

“This is understandable, we always want to develop them. When they develop, we do as a club, then it is OK when they want to take the next step.

“But I always say ‘be very careful when is the right moment’ and ‘you don’t want it to be too early too much’.

“Not (stay) for the rest of our life but for a necessary time to develop, and this is very often what I tell my players.”

As well as recruiting Ings, Villa also brought in the likes of Norwich playmaker Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey, the funding for which had been mostly offset by the £100m sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City.

Villa then moved for Lucas Digne during January and secured Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona as new boss Steven Gerrard look to further improve the squad.

Despite all of the investment, Villa sit 13th and five points behind Southampton.

Following the takeover at St Mary’s by investment firm Sport Republic, which is backed through Serbian businessman Dragan Solak, expectations have been raised of their own summer spending spree.

Hasenhuttl, though, feels everything still needs to be kept in perspective.

Reflecting on the comparison over ambitions of the two clubs, the Saints boss said: “When you see their financial strength, I think they (Villa) are investing more than we do.

“They took our best striker for a lot of money and they are very ambitious – but we are also with our limits we have as a club.

“You see that it is not only about how much money you spend, it is also about how you spend it.

“For us, we had a very good transfer window in the summer. I think we made some good moves. We have a very balanced, very young, very hungry squad.

“It is a fantastic atmosphere to work in, for me as a manager and for the players, so at the moment everything flows really good.”

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