Why Southampton should steer well clear of Paulo Sousa

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 29 November 2018, 15:42

With just one win and eight points from their opening 13 matches, it is easy to see why Southampton are considering replacing ailing boss Mark Hughes.

His constant complaining about factors outside his control rather than taking responsibility for the side’s poor performances is beginning to become somewhat of a pantomime, and action surely must be taken in order to avoid this becoming unsalvageable season.

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An exclusive report in The Times on Wednesday evening stated that the Saints had been in talks with former Swansea, Leicester and QPR manager Paulo Sousa in a bid to replace Hughes, a move that certainly seems sensible on the surface.

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After all, here is a boss with European pedigree, fresh from a new experience in China and not currently tied down to a contract. Yet this is a move that Southampton simply must not make, the warnings from his time at Fiorentina very clear to see for those who were watching closely.

Sousa’s arrival in Tuscany in summer 2015 was met with suspicion, his predecessor Vincenzo Montella having been sensationally sacked due to a row over a lack of investment in the playing squad. His past as a player for hated rivals Juventus was also brought into question, but early results and what appeared to be a charismatic start to his tenure seemingly served to allay those fears.


Fiorentina moved to the top of the league by the end of September, the first time they had done so since 1999, an era when Gabriel Batistuta was still leading the attack.

The football in Sousa’s early days was crisp, dynamic and genuinely a pleasure to watch, but hindsight has shown this to a fluke. Perhaps it was beginners luck during his first Serie A role, or perhaps Montella’s methods stuck in the player’s minds for a little while.

Whatever it was, it didn’t work for long.

After Christmas, Sousa began bizarre experiments with both team selection and tactics, the inconsistency of results mirrored by a lack of anything settled within the whole setup.

The playing squad were seemingly as confused as the supporters, as the changes would mean some weeks the side were capable of beating the likes of Juventus at home and two weeks later would draw 3-3 with Genoa.

In his second campaign, the stubbornness and random approach worsened, Sousa continually replying to questions from reporters that the squad were “growing” even though there was no clear plan on the field.

It became apparent the Viola hierarchy were unwilling to extend his contract beyond the end of the season – and probably should have sacked him sooner – as they went about seeking his replacement for a summer appointment.

His constant complaining about a lack of resources had been addressed by sporting director Pantaleo Corvino in January of that season, the experienced official having made excellent signings in goalkeeper Marco Sportiello and talented trequartista Riccardo Saponara. Yet Sousa refused to start those players simply out of pettiness, knowing that he was soon to be shown the door.

Squabbles and infighting went right through the club as he slowly but surely alienated everyone around him, smiling sweetly to journalist’s faces but then angrily confronting them when cameras had been turned off.

A poor attitude and ineptitude as a Coach is masked by an early impression of charisma, his initial charm easy to fall for. He also makes a good case for being an intelligent boss, however for those who watch every game it soon becomes evident that a lack of knowledge underpins his confidence.

Southampton would do well to turn their attentions away from Sousa at this point, his appointment sure to wreak havoc as the weeks go on.

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