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Mar 12, 2014

Katharina Liebherr won't sell Saints

Newly-appointed Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger says owner Katharina Liebherr has "zero" intention of selling the club.

Southampton is a priority for owner Katharina Liebherr, says Saints chief Ralph Krueger.

The sudden departure of executive chairman Nicola Cortese in January led to widespread talk of a meltdown at St Mary's.

Eight weeks on, Mauricio Pochettino is still the manager and key players were retained in the January window.

In addition, suggestions Liebherr was looking to sell the club she inherited from her late father Markus have also come to nothing.

Liebherr became non-executive chairman following Cortese's departure and has been confirmed as part of a newly-formed four-person board, headed by Krueger.

Fresh from helping Canada to ice hockey gold at the Winter Olympics, the Canadian-born German has become chairman of the holding company, St Mary's Football Group Limited -- somewhere he intends to stay for the long run, saying there is "zero" chance of the club being sold.

"She cares," Krueger said. "She has always cared and this has always been a special organisation, and she really, really cares about what happens here.

"Yes, she has a family, yes she has other things going on, but this has become a very important priority for her."

Krueger's most recent role was as special adviser to the Canadian hockey team at Sochi, following spells as head coach of Switzerland and the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League.

He had five opportunities to return to the NHL and, despite telling his wife he would have a year off, was attracted by the option to join Saints.

Krueger admits Liebherr is the main reason he moved to Southampton and is confident of turning the club into a "healthy sports model".

His goal is to make the club more commercially viable and suggested the National Football League's "sentimental favourites" Green Bay Packers was the kind of unique marketing position Southampton could fill in the Premier League.

"We need to position ourselves as different and different doesn't mean negatively different," Krueger said of the club he believes have "unlimited potential".

"Coming in here is not about doing something new, it's about applying all these good core values that are in place in the new.

"Instead of trying to reinvent everything it is taking what is strong and applying it more to the modern markets of social media, the north American market that's exploding, the Chinese market that's exploding.

"How can we position ourselves uniquely from all those other clubs?"

The team's English core is key to that identity and Krueger has made completing the reported 30-million pound training ground redevelopment "priority one" in a bid to keep the production line going.

Krueger also confirmed he is looking at developing St Mary's, although clammed up somewhat when asked about keeping key talent like academy products Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.

"We will do everything possible to retain the players as long as possible but it is too early in the process to specify what that means," he said.

"Everybody has to know that we will work within our means. We will have a healthy organisation with no shortcuts.

"We are going to earn every single thing we do here and we're going to have to pay a price for that."

Krueger will be involved in transfer decisions but does not claim to be an expert on the game, despite attending a British-based boarding school in Canada and being friends with Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, although his expertise is in leadership.

Krueger has no designs on the manager's job at a club which not so long ago witnessed Sir Clive Woodward's ill-fated attempts to make a mark in football, instead pledging to give Pochettino the political support he needed.

He refused to be drawn on speculation a new deal with the former Argentina international is being discussed.

Krueger said: "This is an important point to bring up right away today: we won't give you speculation, but very quickly we will give you the results. We give them fairly, openly and transparently.

"I think I have been clear today that my conversations with Mauricio have been positive and I would like to leave it like that today."

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