Ralph Hasenhuttl Profile
|Short Name||Ralph Hasenhuttl|
|Born||Aug 09, 1967|
Ralph Hasenhuttl built his reputation in German football and achieved stunning success at Red Bull Leipzig. His time at Southampton has been enthralling and painful in roughly equal measure.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is a nice guy in the right job at the wrong time.
To explain, we first need a brief history lesson: when Southampton were bought by construction magnate Markus Liebherr in 2009, they were in administration and starting a League One campaign on -10 points.
Despite this plight, Liebherr caught the football bug. After his death in 2010, control of the club went to his daughter Katharina and the family's continued investment fuelled successive promotions and has maintained Saints' top-flight status ever since.
But in 2017, Katharina sold an 80% stake in the club to Gao Jisheng, owner of Chinese Lander Sports Investment. Gao now wants to sell and Hasenhuttl is bearing the brunt of this uncertainty as big players leave and in come cheaper replacements - or, in some cases, no replacements at all.
It is a great shame because the Austrian has shown in flashes the mixture of passion and verve he can bring to the job.
He struck up an immediate affinity with the fans through his effervescent personality and saved Saints from relegation after arriving midway through 2018/19.
The following season was comfortable and in 2020/21 Saints topped the table twice before Christmas. Injuries then exposed their feeble squad depth and their second half of the season was utterly dismal.
The summer of 2021 saw Ryan Bertrand, Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard all depart, leaving Southampton priced at 7/2 with Planet Sport Bet to go down and Hasenhuttl fourth favourite at 8/1 to be the first managerial sacking of the season.
Hasenhuttl was an international striker who won three straight Austrian Bundesliga titles with Austria Wien (1991, 92 and 93) and another the following year with Salzburg. He also has two Austrian Cup winner's medals and one Austrian Supercup to his name.
He later had spells in Belgium and in Germany, where his biggest career move, to Cologne, saw them promoted straight back into the Bundesliga. He stayed in the second tier though by moving to Greuther Furth. He wound up his playing career in Bayern Munich's second team.
Hasenhuttl scored three goals for the Austrian national team in his eight appearances.
Eight years as a coach
After leaving Bayern, Hasenhuttl remained in Munich by taking the reins at Unterhaching in Germany's third division, advancing rapidly from youth team coach to assistant then head coach aged 40.
Sacked three years later, his next stop was at Aalen, whom he initially rescued from relegation, then led to promotion in his first full season. After they had finished ninth in 2. Bundesliga in 2012/13, the club were in financial difficulties and the boss was on the move again.
It was at Ingosladt where the young Austrian would begin his ascent in earnest. They were bottom of 2. Bundesliga when he arrived in October 2013. By season's end they were 10th and the following campaign saw them go up as champions into the Bundesliga for the first time in the club's history.
Far from clinging on to survival, their debut top-flight season saw Ingosladt finish 11th with Pascal Gross, later of Brighton, among their standout players.
Joining Red Bull Leipzig
Hasenhuttl's achievements in Bavaria saw newly-promoted, fizzy drink-backed Red Bull Leipzig make their move for the Bundesliga's hottest young property.
He was an instant success. RB Leipzig were undefeated in their first 13 league games - the longest ever such sequence for a promoted team in the Bundesliga. They finished second in their first ever top-flight campaign, dazzling opponents with their high-tempo gegenpressing which brought inevitable comparisons with the style of Jurgen Klopp.
Although they were eliminated in the group stage of the following season's Champions League, Leipzig dropped into the Europa League and reached the quarter-finals before losing to Marseille. They finished sixth in the Bundesliga in Hasenhuttl's second season.
Hasenhuttl fell out with the Leipzig board over a new contract and left in May 2018. It wasn't until the December that he got the call from Southampton to rescue them from the relegation zone.
Immediately his positive attitude and engaging personality - a pleasing contrast to his dour predecessor Mark Hughes - endeared him to fans. His 'three cheers' salute to all four stands at St Mary's after every home win won him huge popularity.
The first of those home wins came instantly - a 3-2 defeat of Arsenal who at the time were on a run of 22 matches without defeat. The next game, away at Huddersfield, brought a 3-1 win just before Christmas and it was full steam ahead for the Ralph Express. Safety was secured with two games to spare.
It has been a bumpy ride since then, however. The infamous 9-0 defeat on a soaking wet Friday night of 25 October 2019 will go down as one of the lowest points in the club's history.
Ryan Bertrand was given a straight red card after only 12 minutes but that could not excuse the lamentable collapse that followed. It equalled the Premier League record for the heaviest defeat and was the biggest home loss in the top flight ever.
Despite the Leicester City humiliation, Saints finished that season (which ended in front of empty stands due to coronavirus) very strongly, going unbeaten in their last seven games to finish 11th.
Losing 9-0 once is bad enough, but for it to happen again the very next season, at Manchester United, goes down as a big black mark against Hasenhuttl's name.
Again, there was an early red card - after just one minute this time - and the capitulation which followed at was almost as horrendous. A second red card later in the game, a ridiculous penalty decision and a wrongly disallowed goal at least gave the manager a few excuses this time around.
A month earlier, Southampton had beaten champions Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary's and Hasenhuttl had sunk to his knees in tears at the final whistle.
It was a slightly odd moment, but showed the coach's sensitivity and perhaps hinted at the pressures of the job starting to show.
Saints were woeful for the second half of the season as injuries took their toll on a small squad. Hasenhuttl's beard grew longer and his wrinkles deeper. A pathetic 3-0 defeat at West Ham on the season's final day encapsulated fans' concerns. Many highlighted his slowness at changing tactics in-game as a weakness.
The departures of key players over the summer and even, heaven forbid, speculation linking the darling of St Mary's, James Ward-Prowse, with a move away, all puts more pressure on the Austrian. He could hardly be blamed if he felt his talents as a coach and motivator might be better rewarded elsewhere.
Perhaps tellingly, in May, he hinted that the Southampton job may even be his last as a coach. He said: "At some point I'll ask myself the question, and I mean it in all seriousness, whether I want to do anything at all afterwards. You do without a lot, and it also costs an incredible amount of energy."
Hassenhuttl earns a reported Â£6m a year at Southampton, making him (unofficially) the eighth highest-earning manager in the Premier League in 2020/21.
Hasenhuttl is married to Sandra and their son Patrick plays for Ralph's old club SpVgg Unterhaching, having previously been at another former employer of his father, Ingolstadt. Patrick has played for Austria at several junior age-group levels.