Claude Puel has become Southampton’s new first team manager on a three-year deal.
Puel, 54, has signed a three-year deal at St Mary’s and will take charge from July 1 when the team returns to training.
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The former Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice manager has never coached in England but has won a Ligue 1 title with Monaco and guided Lille, Lyon and Nice into Europe, plus he plans to take Southampton in the UEFA Champions League.
In his playing days he stayed with Monaco and appeared for them nearly 500 times before moving into coaching as their reserve team manager.
Southampton have also appointed Eric Black as first team assistant manager and Pascal Planque as first team assistant coach with former assistant manager Sammy Lee leaving the club.
Speaking about the appointment after Ronald Koeman‘s decision to leave for Everton earlier this month, executive director of football Les Reed said Puel “clearly came out on top of a very impressive shortlist” and revealed Saints’ ambition for the years ahead.
“Claude has a fantastic platform to work from and is aware that our ambition is to repeat and improve on our performances in the Premier League over the past three seasons,” Reed said. “Claude has a track record of improving the situations he has been presented with and we are confident he can repeat this at Southampton.
“His Champions League and European experience will be valuable in our Europa League challenge this coming season and with the support of our excellent staff at the club I am sure he will do well. We are once again excited about what the new season will bring, and we will continue to chase records as we have done in recent years.”
Southampton have indeed improved their league position in each of the last seven seasons and after recording their highest ever PL finish of sixth-place last season, Puel has a tough job on his hands.
However, the fact that he has brought through young talent at Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice slots in rather nicely with Saints’ philosophy as they possess one of the best academy systems in Europe.
So, who is he?
Puel has helped the likes of Eden Hazard, Thierry Henry, Hugo Lloris and Alexandre Lacazette develop into stars — he also led Nice to fourth-place in Ligue 1 last season and rejuvenated Hatem Ben Arfa — and he certainly has a top squad of talented youngsters to work with at Southampton. It is said by many in France that his Nice team played the best soccer in Ligue 1 last season and his penchant for a high-pressing, counter-attacking style of play slots into what Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino fostered with Saints in the past.
Yet, with Koeman leaving plus Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane sold for a combined $63 million last week, Puel will have to do some rebuilding. He comes with a very good resume and is endorsed by Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger.
With their first-ever trip to the Europa League group stages coming up, Saints finally have a new man in charge who has vast experience of coaching in Europe as he led Lyon to the UEFA Champions League semifinal in 2010. Saints can now look forward to a preseason trip to the USA on July 10-17 and then on to Holland before the new 2016-17 campaign.
Let the French revolution on the south coast of England begin.