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Claude Puel’s departure from Southampton was finally confirmed on Wednesday night.

It had felt like a long time coming, with constant speculation over his future.

An EFL Cup final and an eighth-placed finish may have seemed like a good season to most from the outside.

But elimination at the group stage of the Europa League and just a general lack of a buzz around the place – the Frenchman simply wasn’t very exciting – seemed to get the better of him.

And with players and fans unconvinced by the former Nice boss, there was only ever going to be one outcome.

But who will replace Puel at St Mary’s?

We look at some of the bookies’ tips to step into the hot seat.

Southampton under Puel

Frank de Boer

Former Ajax and Inter Milan boss Frank de Boer is favourite with many of the bookies.

He spent nearly six seasons at Ajax, from December 2010 to July 2016, where he was hugely successful.

With a possession-based philosophy, they often used quick, direct wingers like Anwar El Ghazi or Lucas Andersen who liked taking on the defenders in 1v1 or 2v1 situations.

De Boer led Ajax to four Eredivisie titles before leaving for Italy in 2016, but his spell at Inter was a bit of a disaster.

His spell in Serie A also saw him try out playing three at the back, a formation that he had never previously used at Ajax.

But a poor Europa League performance – they finished below Southampton in the group – combined with a run of four defeats in five Serie A matches, saw him sacked on November 1, having been in charge for only 85 days.

His win rate of 35.7 per cent was considerably lower than his 60.3 per cent rate at Ajax.

5 Candidates To Replace Claude Puel At Southampton

He previously was approached by Liverpool and Newcastle United but didn’t feel he was ready to move to the Premier League.

And he told the Daily Mail: “I would love to manage here but the project has to be right.

“I told Liverpool I was honoured but I was only one year in at Ajax, it was too soon. I needed to achieve more, and I did.”

And that could well be Southampton, and if Saints fans want to know what the Dutchman would bring, he prefers to base himself on the Total Football style made famous by the 1970s Dutch side.

“Attractive football and dominating in the opposition half, winning the ball back as quickly as possible. This is what I stand for,” he added.

And while de Boer may have disappointed at Inter, many decent managers have poor spells at one club – former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman could have been written off after his time at Valencia, but he proved himself to be a very good manager indeed.

Thomas Tuchel

When Puel was dismissed, Thomas Tuchel seemed to be the favourite for the job.

But the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss, who won the German Cup in his last season with the club, has ruled out managing Southampton, according to Sky Sports.

It’s believed he wants to manage a team in the Champions League, something which Southampton can’t afford him.

He was previously thought to be an Arsenal target, so perhaps there’s no surprise he feels he could join a bigger club than Southampton.

But there’s no doubting that Saints' long-term project is a good one, and if he spoke to the board, he may well be impressed.

Like previous Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp, Tuchel is a fan of gegenpressing, and back in 2009, hailed the legendary Barcelona side as an inspiration, saying: “I believe that Barcelona’s outstanding performance is based on the way the whole team with abandon and passion tried to win the ball back after a turnover.”

With the likes of Ousmane Dembélé and Christian Pulisic, Tuchel’s Dortmund was one of the most exciting teams in Europe last season, and if Southampton could persuade him to join and put his hesitations aside, it would be a massive coup.

Mauricio Pellegrino

Southampton aren’t averse to appointing Argentine managers called Mauricio P who have coached in Spain.

Mauricio Pochettino was a huge success, and there’s no reason to suggest former Alavés boss Mauricio Pellegrino wouldn’t be either.

The former Argentina defender took charge of newly-promoted Alavés on a one-year deal last summer, replacing José Bordalás who had led the club to the Segunda Division title.

He ensured Alavés had a memorable first season back in the top flight, leading them to a ninth-placed finish in LaLiga, beating the likes of Barcelona, Valencia and Villarreal along the way, as well as to the Copa del Rey final, where they lost 3-1 to Barça.

The 45-year-old said his aim for the season was to exorcise the ghost of his single campaign at Alavés as a player in 2005/06, which ended in relegation from the top flight.

He has experience in England already, having played as a defender at Liverpool, before becoming Rafa Benítez’s assistant at Anfield from 2008 to 2010.

It wasn’t just under Benítez that he worked though, also assisting Louis van Gaal and Marcelo Bielsa.

His Alavés side were a strong, compact and organised unit but also good to watch – organised but potent in attack.

Mauricio Pellegrino

And a bit like Antonio Conte’s famous comment about being a tailor who has to fit himself to the team, it seems like Pellegrino has the same idea.

“I understand that I first need to adapt to the players and the players to me,” he has been quoted as saying.

“If a team occupies the spaces well in attack when they lose the ball they should be in good position to defend.

“If not, if a team’s attacking threat only depends on chaos and inspiration, you create stretched teams which only know how to play end-to-end football.”

But a concern of course would be his control in the dressing room.

With the lack of approval from players one of the reasons behind Puel’s departure, Pellegrino’s history has a similar tale – at Valencia he was sacked as the playing staff weren’t thought to be fans of his methods.

But you learn from your mistakes and perhaps Pellegrino has put that behind him.

You’re only as good as your last job, and judging by his time at Alavés, he looks a very decent managerial prospect indeed.

Slaviša Jokanović

Fulham coach Slaviša Jokanović has had a mixed managerial career, but he’s had plenty of ups.

His first job saw him lift the Serbian league and cup twice with Partizan, before his surprise next spell in Thailand with Muangthong United saw him go unbeaten in his one season in charge, leading the club to league success.

Disappointing spells where he was sacked at Levski Sofia and Hércules then followed, but at Watford he first caught the eye of English fans, taking them up into the Premier League, before he failed to agree a new deal and was replaced by Quique Sánchez Flores.

A short spell at Maccabi Tel Aviv saw him take them into the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in 11 years, before he returned to England with Fulham.

Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanović

Although he failed to take them up last season, a playoff finish was a big improvement on the Whites’ previous two relegation battles in the Championship, and he arguably had Fulham playing the best football in the division – if he went to Southampton, the style of play would be much better than Puel’s dull offerings.

Indeed, his side loved possession – topping the Championship charts with 59.1 per cent, as well as leading the way in terms of shots per game (15.5), pass accuracy (83.9 per cent), passes per game (577.2), and total goals (83).

They were also third in terms of dribbles per game (10.2).

Fulham fans love him and it’s fair to say his exciting manner of play is hard to take your eyes off.

While he may not have any top-flight managerial experience in a big league in Europe, he’s proving himself as one of the best in England’s second tier and there is no reason why he couldn’t replicate his success at Southampton.

Laurent Blanc

Laurent Blanc has been out of a job since 2016, when he was sacked as Paris Saint-Germain manager so they could appoint Unai Emery to lead them to European glory.

Their infamous collapse against Barcelona shows that didn’t work out too well.

And Blanc’s managerial record at club level is hugely impressive – four Ligue 1 wins (one with Bordeaux, three with PSG), two Coupe de France wins (both with PSG) and four Coupe de la Ligue wins (one with Bordeaux, three with PSG).

There would obviously be reservations about appointing another manager from Ligue 1, but Emery’s record at PSG since Blanc’s departure shows just what a good job he did – although Monaco had a great season, you have to take into account that the former France boss was also not in charge of the capital club in their first campaign without a league title since the 2012/13 season.

Laurent Blanc at PSG

And he knows how to deal with players too, if he can keep Zlatan Ibrahimović’s ego under check, you know he’s a good man manager.

Indeed, Fabien Barthez, who helped Blanc as a technical adviser during his days as France boss, claims his former Manchester United team-mate’s management is based on Sir Alex Ferguson.

“They had talks, they share the same vision of football based on trust, and also a lot of love and protection towards the players,” the former goalkeeper said.

What’s more, Southampton also have a promising youth academy, something Puel dipped into but Koeman was criticised for not doing, and Blanc has history of promoting youngsters.

Despite the riches available in Paris, the Frenchman promoted youngsters Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Hervin Ongenda, Presnel Kimpembe and Jean-Kévin Augustin to the first team.

And having someone who trusts in youth would be invaluable to the Southampton setup.

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