Why Southampton should avoid signing Marin Prognacic in January

According to Sky Sports, Southampton have identified Red Bull Salzburg centre-back Marin Pongracic as a long-term target moving forward, with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl keen to bolster his brittle backline with some fresh recruits. 

The report doesn’t reveal whether the Saints are looking to sign him in January but adds that Hasenhuttl is weighing up a complete overhaul of the existing defensive options at the club. 

The German-born former Croatian U21 international started his footballing education at Bayern Munich before spending three years under the tutelage of Hasenhuttl, who was previously in charge of Ingolstadt between 2013 and 2016. 

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Marin Pongracic has emerged as a long-term target for Southampton (Getty Images)

Pongracic eventually made his senior professional debut with 1860 Munich in the German second-tier before completing a move to RB Salzburg in 2017. The towering central defender has gone from strength to strength over the course of his stay in Austria, accumulating 56 appearances in all competitions so far.

The Southampton manager splashed the cash to bring in quality young talents like Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams this past summer while academy prospects like Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery have also clocked up some decent playtime in the Premier League this season. 

A disastrous first half of the campaign has left the Saints languishing at the bottom of the table in a relegation dogfight with the likes of Watford, Aston Villa and Norwich City.

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Pongracic has made a total of 56 appearances for RB Salzburg in all competitions so far (Getty Images)

To that end, Southampton are in dire need of bringing in some immediate game-changers when the transfer window reopens in January, especially at the back, where they have found themselves too exposed more often than not.

A new centre-back should be atop the club’s transfer agenda when the window reopens in January, with the likes of Jannik Vestergaard, Jan Bednarek, Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens all failing to provide any kind of stability at the back. 

Suffice to say, bringing in young and developing players is undoubtedly the right course of action for any club.

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Ralph Hasenhuttl has previously worked with Pongracic at Ingolstadt in Germany (Getty Images)

Beating the drop should be of utmost importance as far as Southampton are concerned and they need to reshape their transfer policy in January based on that. 

To put things into perspective, Marin Pongracic certainly looks like a fine young talent with plenty of room for development moving forward but he is not the kind of player that the Saints should look to sign in January. 

Verdict

Notwithstanding the Croatian’s reputation as a powerful centre-back with well-rounded attributes in Austria, there is a lot of difference in the quality and intensity of football between both the leagues in question.

Agreed, the 22-year-old could be an excellent long-term signing for Southampton but he doesn’t have the right kind of CV to come through the door at St. Mary’s as an immediate upgrade on the club’s existing defensive options.

With Yoshida out of contract in 2020 and Vestergaard deemed surplus to requirements by Hasenhuttl (h/t Sunday Mirror8/12, Page 67), Southampton will need to look at some defensive signings as a part of their long-term plans next summer. 

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Credits: Getty Images

With that in mind, bringing in Marin Pongracic in 2020 could be a smart piece of business, given that it would allow him sufficient time to settle down in his new surroundings.

However, the immediate objective in January should be to shore up the backline with some experienced heads even if it means bringing in a temporary short-term fix until the end of the season to ensure safety.

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Having said that, Southampton would be wise to not make a move for Marin Pongracic during the mid-season trading period and rather line him up as a potential target next summer.

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