MANAGER Ralph Hasenhuttl listed the qualities of inspirational Saints skipper James Ward-Prowse and added: “It is not surprising when I say that he is one of the best midfield players in the Premier League.”

The talismanic 26-year-old has been in sublime form for the St Mary’s side this season, playing a key role in orchestrating Saints’ rise to fourth in the top-flight table.

No Saints player has played more passes than Ward-Prowse in the division this season – or had more touches of the ball.

Ward-Prowse had been forced to pull out of the England squad during the November international break with a tight hamstring.

But the midfield star has been pictured back in training at Staplewood this week, ahead of Saints’ trip to Molineux to face Wolves on Monday (8pm).

Ward-Prowse has featured 287 times for Saints at senior level, having come through the academy from the age of eight at his boyhood club.

Asked how far his captain could go in the second half of his career, boss Hasenhuttl said: “It is not surprising when I say that he is one of the best midfield players in the Premier League, absolutely.

“He is not only fantastic at free-kicks but he also displays a massive workload every game.

“He can run more than any other player. He is robust. He is gifted. He is technical. He is very, very smart. This is not such a bad combination, to be honest."

One aspect of the Saints’ stalwart’s game that set tongues wagging this season, has been his ability from free-kicks.

On his 26th birthday, Ward-Prowse scored twice from dead-ball situations in a 4-3 victory at Aston Villa.

Hasenhuttl however admitted his captain’s deadly set-pieces were entirely down to developing his own technique.

“I cannot show him. I also cannot teach him. This is something, this technique he has worked since he is a small boy and it’s about taking a ball after a session and then kick it,” said the Austrian manager.

“To be honest I don’t see him doing this very often!

“But he makes all his free-kicks from the side and he knows exactly about how the ball has to fly and I think he did a lot of practice when he was young, because now to be honest I don’t really see him doing it very often.”

Ward-Prowse has scored 27 senior goals throughout his Saints career and registered 34 assists.