Why Southampton should reignite their interest in Marin Pongracic
Back in 2019, a report from Sky Sports had claimed that Southampton were keeping tabs on Croatian defender Marin Pongracic, who was then plying his trade with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. However, the Saints didn’t really follow up their interest in the centre-back with an official approach and Pongracic eventually completed a move to German outfit VfL Wolfsburg in January 2020.
Marin Pongracic started his footballing education at Bayern Munich before completing his development at Ingolstadt, where he spent three years under the guidance of current Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl between 2013 and 2016.
He started his professional career with 1860 Munich in the German second-tier during the 2016-17 season before completing a move to RB Salzburg.
The 23-year-old made 56 appearances for Salzburg in all competitions, featuring in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League. Pongracic’s impressive development in Austria paved the way for a move to VfL Wolfsburg in January 2020. The Croatian started 11 Bundesliga games during the latter half of last season.
Pongracic represented Croatia at the U-21 level before being called up to the senior squad earlier in the year in August. However, he withdrew due to an injury and remains uncapped at the international level.
Pongracic would be a good long-term signing for Southampton
Southampton roped in highly-rated Ghanaian centre-back Mohammed Salisu from Real Valladolid in the summer following the departure of Maya Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt. Yoshida ended his eight-year association with the Saints, joining Sampdoria permanently after spending the second half of last season on loan in the Serie A.
Hoedt has long been out of favour under Hasenhuttl and completed a loan move to his former club Lazio. The Saints have enjoyed a stunning start to the 2020-21 season and currently sit 4th in the standings heading into the final international break of the year. They have won 5 out of their 8 opening league fixtures so far, scoring an impressive 16 goals in the process.
However, it’s the team’s record at the other end of the pitch that remains a nagging concern for Hasenhuttl. Southampton have already shipped 12 goals, which represents a continuation of their poor defensive numbers from the previous campaign. The Saints conceded 60 goals in the PL last term and look to be heading in the same direction this time around.
The likes of Jan Bednarek, Jannik Vestergaard and Jack Stephens have all done a decent job but neither of them has been consistent enough. Salisu is yet to make his debut but will surely be integrated into the set-up once he recovers from his injury.
The Ghanaian has been tipped for a bright future but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Saints to bring in another talented young defender with one eye on the future.
To put things into perspective, Southampton should reignite their interest in Marin Pongracic to land themselves an up and coming centre-back. The Croatian has thrived at Wolfsburg in Germany after proving his credentials at RB Salzburg.
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Suffice to say, Marin Pongracic might not be the finished article just yet but he looks more than ready to ensure healthy competition for places in Southampton’s backline. He might not walk straight into the starting XI ahead of accomplished players like Vestergaard and Bednarek but the Croatian could well evolve into a key player for the Saints in the foreseeable future.
Southampton have largely focused on grooming talented youngsters into quality players since the appointment of Hasenhuttl and Pongracic would be yet another fine addition to the squad after Che Adams, Moussa Djenepo and Salisu.
The centre-back’s past experience of working under Hasenhuttl at Ingolstadt would also make life a lot more comfortable for him at Southampton if a move to the English south coast does materialise.