After just eight months in charge on the south coast, Mark Hughes has been relinquished of his role as manager at Southampton Football Club.
It comes as no surprise, really. Despite their creditable performance in their 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United at the weekend, there has been little reason for Saints fans to smile since Hughes’ appointment at the backend of last season.
Narrowly avoiding relegation, Hughes failed to develop the side in any way and after one poor result and performance too many, the Welshman was sacked from a Premier League club for the fourth time in his career.
Now the door is open for managers to stake their claim as to why they should be the next man to lead the Saints in the Premier League.
Naturally, some of the managers on the Premier League-merry-go-round are putting their names in the ring. David Moyes is the latest to graciously offer his services if required. You can be sure that along with Moyes, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew are both dusting off their respective CVs out of hope rather than expectation.
But who could replace Hughes? Here are three choices: A dream choice, someone looking realistically like they have a chance and a name not mentioned loudly but with the potential of doing a good job.
Dream – Ralph Hasenhüttl
There may be one or two of you who aren’t quite sure who Ralph Hasenhüttl is. The 51-year-old Austrian is the former manager of Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.
He took charge of RB Leipzig in 2016 following their promotion and sensationally guided them to second place in the league, becoming best of the rest behind Bayern Munich and turning the nine-year-old into Champions League qualifiers.
That season they were also the second-highest scorers in the league, a boost Southampton are craving down at St Mary’s.
This eventual led to Hasenhuttl being linked with joining Bayern Munich in late 2017, after the Bavarians had sacked Carlo Ancelotti and replaced him in the interim with Jupp Heynckes.
Speaking at the time, former Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said: “Ralph has everything. He is collecting continental experience with Leipzig already, he and his team are in the top spots of Bundesliga, he integrated really well into the club and is making the next step.
“But give him time to improve and gather experience, so that we don’t put pressure on this great personality for something that might come too early [coaching Bayern Munich].
“His basic talent is extraordinary, and that is what makes him a perfect for Bayern, some time.”
The following season the club finished sixth in the Bundesliga and were knocked out the Champions League at the group stage but performances were still impressive, hence why Hasenhüttl requested a new contract.
The club failed to provide one and thus, Hasenhüttl left the club in May of this year.
Overall, he had a 48.19% win record at RB Leipzig which in comparison to Mark Hughes’ Saints record (19.2%) is pretty impressive.
Fresh from his time off, experienced with top-flight German football, Champions League and turning long-shots into big-shots, Hasenhüttl could be the ideal man to turn the Southampton ship around.
Realistic – Paulo Sousa
It was reported before Hughes’ departure that the club were locked in talks with Sousa about the upcoming available position at the club.
Sousa is no stranger to English football, having spent time managing at Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Leicester City. Since then, he has travelled the globe, leading clubs such as Maccabi Tel Aviv, Basel, Fiorentina and most recently, Chinese outfit Tianjin Quanjian.
His experience could be vital but most importantly, Sousa’s style of football could really suit the players currently employed by Saints.
Sousa has an average win percentage of 49% across a variety of nations and competitions. He has also won two league titles; an Israeli Premier League with Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Swiss Super League with Basel.
The former Portugal international had a very successful playing career and has enjoyed success as a manager. It’s this ethos that the Saints are trying to buy into, hence why Sousa was the early favourite for the job.
Wildcard – Quique Sánchez Flores
This man is no stranger to any Hornets fans.
Flores – like Sousa – would come with vast experience of management from across the globe. Currently managing in China, some of Flores’ former employers include Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Getafe, Espanyol and, of course, Watford.
His time with both Atletico and Benfica draw plaudits his way. He won the Uefa Europa League followed by the Super Cup whilst in charge of the Spanish outfit, showing that he is capable of winning titles at a pretty high level.
His time with Watford was cruelly cut short after just one season in charge. Twelve wins, 40 goals with just 50 conceded, a mid-table finish with a win percentage of 31.58% in their first season back in the top flight. On top of that, an FA Cup run cut short at the semi-final stage – losing to Crystal Palace 2-1 at Wembley – Flores flourished but wasn’t given enough time.
Flores has proven he can cut it at most clubs with an average win percentage of 43.48%. He would just need time, investment and faith installed in him.
Like the others on this list, the football isn’t too bad to watch either.