Ralph Hasenhuttl’s “work ethic is unreal” and talk of interest from Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund has come as no surprise to Southampton legend Francis Benali.
The highly-rated Austrian continues to catch the eye with his efforts at St Mary’s having preceded Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig, with his stock already rising in the Bundesliga.
He adjusted quickly to the demands of Premier League life and has responded positively to any setbacks suffered along the way – including a humbling 9-0 defeat to Leicester.
Southampton are riding high in 2020-21, with the south coast outfit perched above big-hitters such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Change is being mooted at clubs that are struggling to deliver on expectations this season, in England and across Europe.
Hasenhuttl is now being linked with a number of prominent posts, with it suggested that he could be in the mix if high-profile positions open up in Manchester and Dortmund.
Benali admits that the 53-year-old deserves to form part of those discussions, with it only a matter of time before a heavyweight outfit comes calling.
The former Saints defender told the Racing Post: “When lockdown came Ralph drew up a blueprint, not only for the first team but right through the club.
“His work ethic is unreal. I am aware of him waking up at all hours to work on the club, sending messages at silly o'clock and he has the right attitude and work ethic with the squad buying into it.
“From a Saints perspective I certainly hope he stays for a long time but everyone at Southampton knows we are not the biggest and can't offer financially the same as other clubs.
“At some stage players and managers may feel they can get to another level but he is doing an incredible job and I sincerely believe and my gut feeling is he wants to continue the journey to repay the faith the board retained in him during the bad times last season.”
Asked if he ever doubted Hasenhuttl following his arrival in December 2018, Benali added: “I honestly didn't. I have been on the wrong end of some hefty defeats - thankfully not a 9-0 - but there have been some big defeats and they can be a turning point for better or worse.
“It was a chance to reset and refocus and we saw how Ralph took responsibility and in his post-match interview it looked like he had the world on his shoulders, but the board stood by him immediately.
“Ralph has gone back to basics, changed a few things and found a formula that works which I am pleased about because we had a turnover of managers but ideally you want stability to work through a philosophy.
“I didn't realise it would be this good and I'd love to think they could finish in the Champions League spots in what is a funny season with such a tight table. But despite the results and performances I think the top four may be too much of a stretch.”