RALPH Hasenhuttl insisted Saints had little choice but to let Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand both leave the club over the summer.

The pair both joined Leicester City and could face their former club for the first time tomorrow, when Brendan Rodgers brings his Foxes to St Mary's (7.30pm).

Bertrand, 32, left Saints as a free agent following the expiry of his contract, having played 240 times for the club during a seven-year stay.

Vestergaard arrived at Saints for a reported £18million from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2018.

After working his way into the side, the Denmark international then departed to join Leicester for £15million, with just one year remaining on his deal at Saints.

The centre-back played 79 times for the Hampshire club, netting four goals.

Following the key pair's departure, Mohammed Salisu has had a prolonged run in the side in the position previously occupied by Vestergaard. Meanwhile, new signings Romain Perraud and Tino Livramento have filled the full-back berths, with Kyle Walker-Peters also often shifting across to play on the left, where Bertrand was previously first choice.

Asked if he feels his side is in a stronger position now defensively than if Vestergaard and Bertrand would have stayed, boss Hasenhuttl said: "No, because I think it was without alternatives that we had to do this. Jannik had one year left on his contract, so it was a very good deal for us. It was the same with Danny Ings (who joined Aston Villa).

"Ryan was at an age where we thought we could get a better option for the future, a younger one. We wanted to rebuild the back four.

"We have a very young back four now, who will have a future and learn very quick in the Premier League – Tino, Kyle, Romain, Sali at the back.

"We have a young, not so experienced back four, but they do a good job. We have five clean sheets so far this season, this is massive and is a good signal I think.

"As I always said, it makes more sense to invest all the energy in a young player who then develops himself and in the end also the club.

"Then in a few years, maybe we sell them for big money then the next young one will come in.

"This is our way we want to go and it is without alternatives, to be honest."