London (AFP) – Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger believes Mark Hughes is the “perfect” fit at the Premier League club, with negotiations well under way to extend the manager’s stay beyond the summer.
Hughes was brought in to stave off relegation in March after floundering Mauricio Pellegrino was fired and the club battled their way to survival, finishing in 17th spot.
The Welshman only penned a short-term deal but Krueger has been impressed by his work and said the club and Hughes were “in really good conversation” about a longer stay.
“The decision to go with Mark in the timeframe that we had to meet him and to bring him in was very tight, but everything since they’ve been here has been natural and the fit has been perfect,” he told Britain’s Press Association.
Before hiring Hughes, Krueger had worked with four foreign managers since arriving at Southampton in 2014.
“We’ve gone a completely different direction when you look at him,” he said.
“But it just feels like the right hire at the right time for the club, and also I feel it was the right fit for them and with their experience, too.”
The chairman said a balance was needed between keeping the best players and not allowing unhappy individuals to unsettle the dressing room.
Last summer Saints dug in their heels to keep Virgil van Dijk but in January the defender, like many Southampton players before him, moved to Liverpool.
“I think we also have to get back to the Southampton way of having a locker room full of players that want to be here, whatever that ambition is,” Krueger said.
“And if somebody ends up being in a Champions League final like (former Southampton forward) Sadio Mane, we should be proud of that and should see it as an accomplishment.. And I think that’s something we’ll get back to.”