RALPH Hasenhuttl has insisted “there was not for one minute fear that he would leave us” as James Ward-Prowse prepares to face the club he was subject to a bid from in Aston Villa.

The Daily Echo understands that Saints rejected a £25million bid for captain Ward-Prowse during a summer window which also saw three fellow seniors exit.

Ryan Bertrand, Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard all made transfer moves, with the latter and former going to Leicester City and Ings ending up at Villa.

But the skipper remained with Saints and signed a brand-new five-year contract to tie him to the club until 2026.

He was targeted by the Premier League side after netting eight goals in the league season, scoring on the international stage for England and becoming further renowned as a free-kick specialist.

Villa lost talisman Jack Grealish to Aston Villa in the summer for a £100million fee, and went on a spree of spending with the likes of Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Saints’ Ings signing.

But Hasenhuttl insists he was never worried that Ward-Prowse would join them.

He said: “There was not for one minute a fear that he would leave us, to be honest. I was relatively sure that he knows the role he has to play for this club.

“It’s more than losing a very good footballer, a free-kick expert, he’s a real model for our club and it’s always helpful when you have someone like that here.

“He’s somebody that the young lads are looking up to and want to do the same, and this is why it was important that he was then committing even more to the club.”

He added: “I think we found a solution where we had a win-win situation for the club and for him. This is how it should be.”