Morgan Schneiderlin insists Saints can keep hold of their best players this summer – as long as the new board continue to drive the club forward.

The midfielder is the latest senior star to state his belief that the next few months at St Mary’s will be crucial, if the progress of the past five seasons is to carry on.

Despite speculation linking key players, not to mention manager Mauricio Pochettino, pictured, with moves elsewhere, Schneiderlin thinks it is possible to keep the core of the squad together.

The French ace also believes that, with the right investment, the team can challenge even further up the Premier League table next season.

Schneiderlin wants to be part of a Saints side competing for a top-six position, and he hopes the actions of the St Mary’s decision-makers will reflect that ambition.

“It’s important for the club, because it’s going to show the direction they want to take,” said Schneiderlin of the summer ahead. “(The direction) they want to take with the gaffer first, because there’s many players who want to play for the gaffer.

“There’s a lot of things that they have to do and then we’ll see.

“Of course, we don’t know what’s going to happen this summer, but Southampton can get a step forward, and that’s the main thing.

“The fans want it, the players want it, so we’re just going to see.

“We can’t do anything, because we’re (in the) background. We’re just going to wait and see what they’re going to do.

“But, of course, we want, I want, to be part of a team that is playing for the top five or top six places, and if they can’t do this then many players are going to be disappointed.”

If the new Saints board can persuade Pochettino to sign a fresh long-term contract and can invest money in the squad – despite the “difficult” financial situation they say they have inherited – then Schneiderlin believes there will be no reason for the club’s best players to leave.

He said: “If they say to the main players and to the gaffer ‘Listen, we’re going to make you sign a long-term contract, we’re going to keep the main players in there, we’re going to bring in three, four, five more players to improve that squad to be in the top six’ then why not?

“Look how we played (at Manchester City). There’s not much gap between us and the top five or six, so why not?

“But, like I say, there’s many things they need to do.”

Saints are nearing the end of an extremely impressive season, especially considering that it is still only their second campaign back in the top-flight, with the club on course for an eighth-place finish and a record Premier League points haul.

It is enough to convince last year’s player-of-the-season Schneiderlin, who has enjoyed another excellent year, that Saints are not that far off the top six.

“We feel very, very close,” he said.

“When you look at every game we’ve played against the top teams, I think it’s just once or twice when we played Chelsea that we didn’t perform very well, but apart from that against every team we did very well – Manchester City first game, now second game we did good.

“Arsenal we did very well in both games.

“We’re very close to those teams and we just need to adjust some things, of course to get new players in, and two or three little things, and then why not?”