Ronald Koeman makes a confession about Shane Long that highlights his spectacular form
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has offered the ultimate compliment to his striker Shane Long, after suggesting he is relieved he never had to face the Republic of Ireland star in his current form during his playing career.
Long has been one of the shining lights of Southampton’s surge of form in recent weeks and he heads into Sunday’s game at Tottenham as one of the first names on Koeman’s team-sheet.
He has not always been so far up Koeman's pecking order over the last couple of years, yet the Southampton boss has suggested the Irishman has won him over with his dynamic performances that continued with a goal in last weekend’s 4-2 win against Manchester City.
“I am glad I did not have to play against Shane,” said former Barcelona defender Koeman with a smile.
“We did a lot with Shane in a lot of aspects of football. I think he is more complete as a player now. His pace, his timing and his movements are full of confidence.
“It is a big example that you can still learn when you are 26, 27 or 28. It is an example of how a player can develop with coaching.”
They were words delivered by a former Dutch international who was considered to be one of the finest defenders of his generation and appear to confirm that Koeman has been won over by Long after using him as a super-sub for large potions of his time as Saints boss.
It also suggests Long is in prime form as he prepares to lead the Republic of Ireland attacking line at the Euro 2016 finals this summer.