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 By Kevin Palmer

Southampton close in on Mauricio Pellegrino appointment - sources

Southampton will speak with former Alaves coach Mauricio Pellegrino imminently and may appoint him as the club's new manager by the end of this week, sources close to the club have told ESPN FC.

Saints are looking for a new head coach after sacking Claude Puel earlier this month, and Pellegrino viewed as a leading contender as he ticks many of the boxes laid out by the club as they look to appoint a candidate who will fill the role for an extended period.

Southampton's Head of Football Development Les Reed and his technical staff are keen to identify a coach with experience of top-level football, a clear philosophy on the game and a desire to embark on a long-term project to try and take their club into the top six of the Premier League on a regular basis.

Pellegrino's experience of English football from his time working alongside Rafael Benitez at Liverpool is also viewed as positive.

All candidates are urged to confirm that they will not use the club as a stepping stone to the next stage of their careers. Southampton are keen to avoid a repeat of managerial appointments in recent years when Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman left following successful spells at the helm.

Mauricio Pellegrino is the leading candidate to replace Claude Puel as Southampton manager.

Reed has been leading the process to identify a new manager, with Reading boss Jaap Stam among those initially considered before Pellegrino emerged as the outstanding candidate.

Saints officials see similarities in Pellegrino to former Saints manager Pochettino, with their ethos and work ethic, but the final decision on his candidacy will be made after meetings with the club.

Former Ajax and Inter Milan coach Frank De Boer, who is also reported to be under consideration to become the next Crystal Palace manager, is also a contender for the Southampton post, but Pellegrino is currently viewed as the leading candidate.

Club officials are eager to have a new manager in place well before the first team players return for fitness test at the club's Staplewood training base on June 29, before a preseason tour of Austria and France.

No decisions on player transfers will be made until the new Southampton manager is place, but the club say they have no desire to sell star defender Virgil Van Dijk this summer, despite reported interest from Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

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