Southampton in talks to keep ‘perfect fit’ Mark Hughes at club

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Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger believes Mark Hughes has proven the “perfect” fit, with negotiations well under way to extend the manager’s St Mary’s stay beyond the summer.

Saints looked bound for relegation as a sense of drift and complacency crept in around a club lauded in recent years for the way they have constantly rebuilt.

Hughes was brought in to stave off relegation in March after floundering Mauricio Pellegrino was fired, managing just that as Southampton finished in 17th spot.

The Welshman only penned short-term deal but chairman Krueger has been impressed by his work and talks to keep him are going on.

“The decision to go with Mark in the time frame 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 Press Association Sport.

Krueger admitted the club had underappreciated the “negative storm” they were in until early February.

“We’ve gone a completely different direction when you look at him (compared to four successive foreign managers),” 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.

“So, we’re in really good conversation. We began these conversations last week and they continue here, and we will build on them.

“That’s all I can say to that right now, but we are in good conversation.”

It appears a case of when rather if Hughes signs a new deal at a club who have pledged to learn from this season’s mistakes.

Krueger is keeping the ticket from last Tuesday’s crucial 1-0 win at Swansea on his desk to remind him of this late let off and plans are afoot to kick on next season.

Pre-season will take the club to China – home of the Gao family, who became owners last August – and Krueger knows a balance is needed between keeping the best players and not allowing unhappy individuals to throw off the dressing room.

Last summer Saints dug in their heels to keep Virgil van Dijk but the wantaway defender, like so many before him, moved to Liverpool in January.

Krueger concedes there was an issue with “the dressing room that we created through some of decision-making over the last years”, which was down to club strategy as well as player recruitment and management.

“We want to have a dressing room of players who want to be here,” Krueger said. “That’s the most important thing.”

“We put (Pellegrino) in a pretty tough space and we take responsibility for that.

“But we needed to make that stand and I think it was an important stand to take and we’ll learn and grow from that.

“But 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.

“And if somebody ends up being in a Champions League final like 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.”

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