Ralph Hasenhuttl has admitted that Southampton can draw inspiration from fellow countryman Dominic Thiem in their quest to consistently compete with the best clubs in the Premier League.
The Austrian will take his team to Wolves on Monday knowing that a win will bring them back to the top four and while that may be an unrealistic goal coming to close the season, the 53-year-old is always looking for better.
The former RB Leipzig boss, who is approaching two years at St Marys, has taken the Saints from relegation candidates to an established middle class and is aware that the way to improve is to follow the elite.
It was a similar story for Austrian tennis star Thiem, who at the age of 27 finally hit a first grand slam at the US Open in September, despite playing in an era with the greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Hasenhuttl said, I was not looking from such an angle, but there are certainly some comparisons.
If you want to develop, you need these games against big teams and big players to see how good they are and then learn how to adjust your game. This is what he did too.
It’s not just waiting for them to be too old and stop playing because others will do the same and then you have to compete with them.
For us, it’s about competing with the best teams. I once said the quote that if you want to be a lion you have to fight lions and I think this fits very well.
You only get better when you have these games. Sometimes it’s a losing game, but even then you can learn a lot from this.
After Thiem progressed to the final of the ATP Finals with a remarkable victory over Djokovic on Saturday, Hasenhuttl hopes that his players can achieve a positive result at Molineux.
In Wolves, Southampton has a direct rival for a top eight finish and also a club that can serve as an inspiration to make the leap to the traditional top six.
We are no longer afraid of a team, Hasenhuttl added. This is the first step to be successful.
In other times, the Saints manager would have been present at the O2 Arena in London on Sunday to see his fellow countryman Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Hasenhuttl hopes that Thiem can see a match in St Marys soon, he added: I know Dominic very well because we met a few times. He is a Chelsea fan!
I tried to invite him, but then it was the pandemic and it didn’t work. I always follow his development and his game.
It’s amazing how much progress he has made. I would have liked to see him live here in England, in London, but that is currently not possible.
There will come a moment when I can see him play, hopefully he will still be a top player. For me, he has the best package to be number one in the future which is his biggest goal and I am sure he can achieve it.
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