Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino pledges to see out the season – but summer exit looks likely

The departure of chairman Nicola Cortese has led to unrest at the club

Mauricio Pochettino is staying at Southampton, and so are his players. That was the reassuring message to Southampton fans from their manager as the Premier League club reeled from the departure of chief executive Nicola Cortese. But the odds are the Argentine will quit at the end of the season.

Pochettino, who was hired by Cortese and said eight months ago if the Swiss left so would he, will be in the dug-out for Saturday's match at Sunderland. He said he was “100 per cent decided to staying until the end of the season”, adding, “if the owners want me”. Beyond that, however, is up in the air.

“The commitment is to get to a good point at the end of the season, then we will see what happens,” he said. “Logically, after the decision will be: a signed contract, a new board at the club, and we will assess whether I am set to stay another season.”

By then he will know whether he can work with Katharina Liebherr, the club's reluctant and reclusive Swiss owner, who Pochettino met for only the second time. The first occasion was at an end-of-season meal arranged, as has been everything else at Southampton for the last five years, by Cortese.

Of the meeting Pochettino said: “We just spoke for five minutes, it was a quick hello and goodbye, and her transmitting to me her full trust and support to me and my staff. We have not spoken about anything else.”

This did not quite square with reports of the timings of their respective arrivals at the ground, which would have enabled them to speak for an hour or more, but meant he was able to say they had not had time to discuss transfer policy, the club's aims going forward, or, indeed, anything of note.

Pochettino did, though, make clear that as far as he was concerned no player would be leaving without his agreement. That negotiations are already under way to sell Ricky Lambert to West Ham suggests the England striker is surplus to requirements, the likes of Luke Shaw, however are definitely not.

One problem for any club hoping to prise away the teenaged left-back, or other talents such as James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, is that such is the power vacuum left by Cortese there is no-one to take their call. With a largely disinterested absentee owner Cortese was the most powerful executive in the Premier League, a status magnified by his autocratic nature. Very little happened at St Mary's, or the well-appointed training ground on the fringe of the New Forest, without Cortese ordering it to.

Thus the immediate priority for Liebherr is to appoint a new chief executive. That may be someone with the brief to sell a club she inherited upon the death of her father, Markus, but they will have to run it in the interim. Christian Purslow, who was managing director of Liverpool in 2009-10 and oversaw the club's sale to its current owners, is in the frame.

Whoever it is will have to forge a working relationship with a manager who began the press conference by paying tribute to Cortese and described his departure as a 'body blow'. Nevertheless Pochettino insisted the situation was 'different' to when he threatened to resign eight months ago, when Cortese first skirmished with Liebherr.

Speaking in a room emblazoned with photos of Southampton players under the phrases 'Our time is now' and 'Our dream is real' he said:“Then we were at the end of the season, we were starting a new project and there was no point me staying if he left. Now is completely different, we are in the middle of the season. It makes no sense for me to leave. Nobody would understand it, and I am sure Nicola would not understand either. The loyalty and commitment to the staff, the players, the fans, the people, the club is important. It is not the moment. I have a lot of responsibility.”

Pochettino stressed he was a 'loyal and legal man' but the way he corrected a suggestion he had 18 months to run on his contract - “it is 17”, he said - hinted he was counting the days. He admitted he only decided to stay after a sleepless night and a conversation with Cortese.

It is rare that the departure of a football club's chief executive results in a media scrum for the following day's managerial press conference, but as a tweet lamenting his departure by Shaw illustrated, Cortese was an unusual chief.

Pochettino said it was now 'important' Liebherr was 'visible' to the fans, which is unlikely to please this occasional visitor to the south coast. Southampton FC, after all, is only a very small part of a business empire that turns over €9bn a year.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created