PAULO SOUSA has held talks with Southampton and is a shock contender to replace Mark Hughes if he is axed.
The ex-Swansea boss, 48, was seen at Craven Cottage watching the defeat to Fulham at the weekend.
AFP – Getty7 Paulo Sousa has held talks with Southampton and could be in line to replace Mark Hughes
Getty Images – Getty7 The former Benfica, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan midfielder was most recently the boss at Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian
And he is highly regarded by the club’s Chinese owners after his spell with Tianjin Quanjian ended last month by mutual consent.
The Portuguese coach could come into consideration if Sparky cannot turn around Saints’ poor run of results.
Their only Premier League win this season – a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace – came way back on September 1 against Crystal Palace, putting Hughes’ position in the spotlight and Southampton in the relegation zone.
Saints have resisted pulling the trigger but have been assessing their options should they lose faith in the former Wales, Manchester City and Stoke boss.
PA:Empics Sport7 Sousa endured a difficult time in England when manager at Queens Park Rangers, Swansea and Leicester
PA:Press Association7 Hughes is under serious pressure because Southampton have won just once this season
Reuters7 With just that solitary win at Crystal Palace on September 1, the Saints are in the relegation zone
Sousa’s glittering playing career saw him win the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and titles with Juventus and Benfica.
As a boss he struggled with poor spells at Queens Park Rangers, Swansea and Leicester but won the Swiss title after leaving England and had a two-year spell at Fiorentina in Italy before heading for China.
He reached the AFC Champions League quarter-finals with Tianjin Quanjian but suffered the blow of losing Axel Witsel to Dortmund and striker Anthony Modeste refusing to play over his contract.
Southampton owner Gao Jisheng fired Hughes' allies and the club's recruitment duo of vice-president Les Reed and technical director Martin Hunter earlier in November and could sack another employee in the coming days.
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AFP7 Southampton owner Gao Jisheng sacked Hughes' allies Les Reed and Martin Hunter this month
Getty Images – Getty7 Southampton will have seen the immediate impact Claudio Ranieri has had at Fulham and must also consider a change of manager
Hughes has one last chance to save his job, though.
Manchester United travel to St Mary's on Saturday evening and a positive result could see Sparky cling on for a little longer.
It is understood Brendan Rodgers and Sean Dyche have both been considered by Southampton but they are under long-term deals at Celtic and Burnley respectively.
If Hughes is given the boot, the Saints must act quickly to bring in his replacement before their league position worsens.