07 January 2022

Ralph Hasenhuttl plays down transfer expectations after Southampton takeover

07 January 2022

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has warned fans not to expect a raft of big-money signings following the club’s takeover as he focuses on unearthing potential stars.

Investment firm Sport Republic, backed by Serbian businessman Dragan Solak, this week bought an 80 per cent stake in Saints from previous owner Jisheng Gao.

Hasenhuttl is excited by the potential opportunities afforded by the change of ownership but does not envisage major deviation from the club’s existing transfer policy and long-term strategy.

However, the Austrian believes Southampton will be able to move earlier to sign young talent who are struggling to breakthrough at so-called bigger clubs.

He citied former Chelsea defender Tino Livramento and Blues loanee Armando Broja as prime examples of the types of promising players he will target and feels Saints can operate a similar model to his former club RB Leipzig.

“I understand that fans are always talking about how much they want to spend because this is the only thing they need to see from a new owner – I see it a little bit different,” said Hasenhuttl.

“We get a lot of knowledge. We get also the chance to be earlier in our signings definitely but that doesn’t mean now that we change our behaviour, so we don’t go now out on the market and buy everything that is available for us, it doesn’t make any sense.

“We want to pick the players – the Livramentos, the Brojas – that are around there and this new owner gives us the chance to get these guys earlier.

“In the past, it was very often that we had to sell players before we could sign new players. And this will change now massively. But it doesn’t mean we are now going for every player that is available.

“I think they (the new owners) have looked very carefully what has happened here in the past two, three years, seen that we have a clear strategy, and said: ‘This is the philosophy we are 100 per cent identified with and we want to help you to go quicker this way, to go quicker on the market and find the players with potential, develop them’ – the same as we did in Leipzig.

“We have a young team with a lot of potential that is getting better every week and I think especially Livramento and Broja are a sign that young players who cannot make it at the Chelseas, Man Citys of this world are very welcome here and get a very good platform to show themselves.

“This is the way we want to go: we want to create new stars and this is a very interesting way for the club and a very interesting way for the owner.”

Solak is the lead investor in London-based Sport Republic, which was founded by Rasmus Ankersen and Henrik Kraft.

Ankersen, who recently stepped down as Brentford co-director of football, is chief executive of the sport and entertainment investment firm, with fellow co-founder Kraft acting as chairman.

Meanwhile, Katharina Liebherr has retained her 20 per cent stake in Southampton.

A new era for the south-coast club begins with Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Championship club Swansea.

Positive coronavirus cases mean Saints will be without Che Adams, Kyle Walker-Peters and youngster Thierry Small in South Wales, while Livramento (knee) and Will Smallbone (calf) are injured and Mohammed Salisu is banned.

While Southampton were frustrated to have last Sunday’s Premier League fixture against Newcastle postponed because of coronavirus issues for their opponents, the Swans have not played since December 11.

“It was not easy to prepare for this game, you never know what team you are facing,” said Hasenhuttl. “It’s even more important to concentrate on your own strengths.

“We have also had a game postponed that we would have liked to have played because it would have fitted perfectly to the rhythm.

“This disrupts everything so we will look which players should play now, we have a few injuries, a few Covid cases but the players are coming back and want to play.”

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