Saints are “closing in” on appointing a new manager.

Executive director Les Reed has revealed that the club expect to announce Mauricio Pochettino’s successor sooner rather than later, and that they have identified a number-one target.

“We’re closing in now on our preferred candidate, things are going well,” he said, in an interview with the club.

“What takes time on these things is the paperwork, but I’m hoping that we can get that sorted very quickly and the fans will be excited about an announcement coming up sooner rather than later.”

Saints have been hoping for some time that they will be in a position to make an appointment either late this week or early next week.

They have already held talks with Ronald Koeman, who left Dutch side Feyenoord this summer after three successful years in Rotterdam.

The club are understood to have been impressed with the 51-year-old, who is also believed to have been pleased with what he was told by them.

Koeman, who is on holiday until Sunday, is not the only candidate, however, with Reed revealing that there were four men who made the final shortlist.

All of those were said to be on the club’s regularly-updated list of potential managers before Pochettino left for Tottenham.

“We were quite delighted that when we got down to about the final four, all four of those had been on our list originally,” said Reed, who said the board were inundated with applications after the Argentine’s departure and were “astounded” by the quality of managers interested in the position.

“It shows to me the esteem this club has in the industry.

“A lot of very, very well known candidates were excited about the possibility of coming to St Mary’s.

“That would be true to say also of target players who we’ve shown an interest in.”

Reed reiterated that no players would be bought or sold without the new manager’s input, although he again underlined that the scouting and recruitment department have already been researching possible signings.

He admitted that other clubs’ interest in some of Saints’ players does have something of a “destabilising” effect on them, but he said he hopes that key stars may feel more settled once they see who the new boss is.

Reed also revealed that Saints will soon be announcing two “marquee” pre-season friendly matches against European clubs, one of which will be away, while the other will be at St Mary’s.