Spanish football expert and Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague believes newly-appointed Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino is a “perfect fit” for the club.
Saints announced on Friday the appointment of the former Alaves and Valencia boss as successor to Claude Puel, who was sacked after one season in charge despite leading Southampton to the EFL Cup final and an eighth-place finish in the Premier League.
Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ, Balague expressed admiration for the Argentinian, who led Alaves to a top-half finish in La Liga and a Copa del Rey final against Barcelona last season before resigning in May.
“Look at the situation that he had at Alaves when he arrived in the summer – 18 new players, he had to win and he had to make sure that Alaves didn’t go down,” Balague said.
“What they got from him was a guy with tactical versatility. He made the team play with three at the back, with four at the back – sometimes attacking with one, sometimes with two.
“He made every single player in that squad involved in proceedings. Everybody felt important and everybody got better.”
Balague feels confident Southampton players will flourish under Pellegrino’s guidance and believes the 45-year-old will get the best out of each and every one of his squad.
“Everybody got better under him. His tactical flexibility and a good management of the squad, maximising the potential of the squad,” he added.
“He just had the perfect season and of course he managed to get to the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona. ”
Similarities are likely to be drawn between Pellegrino and fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, who managed the Saints during the 2013/14 campaign before going on to take the helm at Tottenham the following season.
Both are considered to favour a high-pressing, attacking style of football, and Balague says the pair are likely to have spoken about the club.
“I get the impression they have spoken. I’m pretty sure they’ve spoken about Southampton of course,” he added.
“Pellegrino tried to find out more about the club and Pochettino speaks very highly of the club. He left in very, very high regard.”
Balague is impressed with Southampton’s managerial selection process and feels the former Liverpool defender has been waiting for the right opportunity to move to the Premier League.
“Do you know what is common here? The selection process. For me, Southampton have one of the most professional, thorough and forward-thinking selection processes for managers in the world,” he said.
“It’s normal that they’ve taken a while to actually choose the one that they wanted and, after they’ve done that, speak for long enough to the man to realise he’s the one that they wanted.
“That’s the thing in common with Southampton. Yet again they’ve chosen a very clever, very intelligent, young and ambitious manager.
“He told his representatives he wanted to go to the Premier League. Crystal Palace were interested in him, Southampton were interested him and it was a choice at some point from him what he wanted more. I’ve got the impression that Southampton offers a lot of possibilities.”
Balague believes Pellegrino, who worked alongside Rafael Benitez at Liverpool as first-team coach before the pair moved to Inter Milan in 2010, has a thorough understanding of the task asked of him as he prepares for next season.
“It’s a young team with a lot of developing players, which is another thing that he likes,” Balague said.
“He understands his role at the club – he’s just a coach, but he’s happy with that too and of course, having been in the Premier League before, he knows that there is a lot of potential there.
“He will adapt to whatever he has. So from that point of view you’ve got somebody who has got experience abroad, of course he was in Argentina with a couple of clubs, and in Spain as well.
“He knows England, so for many reasons he was the perfect fit for Southampton.”Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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