Sport Soccer

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Koeman targets Europe to keep stars

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman wants to qualify for Europe this season to keep hold of his top talent
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman wants to qualify for Europe this season to keep hold of his top talent

Ronald Koeman believes qualifying for Europe may be the only sure-fire way for Southampton to prevent another summer of high-profile departures from St. Mary's.

Saints currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League heading into Saturday's clash with struggling QPR as Koeman has led a new-look side to unexpected levels of success.

The Dutchman replaced Tottenham-bound Mauricio Pochettino last summer and witnessed a fire-sale of top talent as England World Cup trio Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Rickie Lambert joined Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers in leaving Southampton.

The players brought in to replace those names may not have been instantly as well-known but the likes of Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle, as well as a new batch of young academy stars and further impressive investment, has seen the south coast club compete at the highest level so far this year.

With just 15 games to go many would now tip Saints to at least qualify for next season's Europa League whilst some may believe they have enough to push the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool for a place in the league's coveted top four.

And Koeman feels that reaching such heights may be the key to hanging on to their new stars and not witnessing such an exodus for the second time.

"I know the situation," the former Barcelona midfielder said.

"We are Southampton and if we are doing well there is always interest in our players, and it is down to the success of the club, and it's good.

"I prefer this than to be on the bottom of the league and there is no interest in the players, because then we have to be afraid that we aren't good enough.

"I think these players would like to play in European cup football and that they would like to play Champions League football.

"If there is any interest for these players it will be maybe easier for us if we play in European cup football to keep the players for us, because that's always maybe an important reason for a player to stay or not to stay."

Koeman will not be coming up against former Saints boss Harry Redknapp when he takes his side to Loftus Road after the 67-year-old stepped down citing upcoming knee surgery as his reason for being unable to continue.

"I was surprised when I was watching television and I saw that decision," he said of Redknapp's resignation

"It is a difficult job, they are in the bottom of the league - it is strange that they have good results at home and 11 defeats away. It is not the end of the season but I'm not at QPR to give more opinions about that.

"It is a pity because I like Harry Redknapp and he is an experienced coach but it is the problem of QPR. It is probably the most difficult thing for a manager to decide when is the right moment or not."

Despite QPR amassing all of their 19 points at Loftus Road this season, the R's players named by caretaker manager Chris Ramsey will come up against a Southampton side reinvigorated by the return to fitness of key midfield pair Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama.

A 1-0 home loss to Swansea may have set Koeman and his side back last weekend but victory over relegation-threatened QPR will lift them two points clear of third-placed Manchester United, who face a tricky trip to West Ham on Sunday.

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