Claude Puel: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is the future of Southampton
Claude Puel has described Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as representing Southampton's "future" after revealing club insiders spoke about the midfielder with his mentor Pep Guardiola.
Hojbjerg could start for Southampton against his former manager Guardiola's Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League fixture, facing him for the second time since they both came to England.
Their presence here comes after Guardiola managed him at Bayern Munich, where he felt the Dane could become a midfielder of the highest calibre, and where he dedicated significant time towards nurturing his talent.
The competition provided by Philip Lahm, Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso, Bastian Schweinsteiger and others ultimately prevented him from becoming a regular starter at Bayern.
He then in the summer he joined Southampton for £12.8million, shortly after Guardiola's arrival at City, and has shown in flashes of the ability that caught the Spaniard's eye and which Puel believes will become central to his team.
"Guardiola likes good, technical players, and Pierre's a technical player, intelligent, and there's a good feeling with this player, it's important to have this profile on his team," said the Southampton manager.
"I like this profile also: for me it's the future for Southampton.
"Of course (he'll become an important player for Southampton). It's a young player, 21. It's very, very young. We forget that he's just this age.
"It's important he continues to improve, develop, and make progress. It's interesting for his first season in the Premier League, with what he can do since the beginning of the season.
"(After October's 1-1 draw at City) the directors spoke with Guardiola about Pierre. Just about the quality of Pierre."
Puel again has Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis available for selection, leaving Virgl van Dijk and Charlie Austin as his only major absentees.
Martin Caceres - one of Guardiola's first signings as a manager when he took over at Barcelona - is again expected to be on the substitute's bench, and Jordy Clasie could retain his place after scoring in last week's 1-0 win at West Brom.
Clasie has since been linked with with a transfer to Everton, whose manager Ronald Koeman brought him to St Mary's, but Puel said: "It's another name (becoming the subject of speculation).
"After Clasie, Van Dijk, and (Cuco) Martina... It's speculation, because now is not the moment to speak about this: it's all speculation.
"I like Jordy, because he's a good, technical player. I like when he can score like that last time, against West Bromwich. We will see all the players at the end of the season if they are happy or not happy: all this is normal, but for the moment I am happy with Jordy and his attitude."