Benali on Saints' signings and European football

By SFC Media time Thu 25 Jun Club

Francis Benali believes the club’s transfer business in the last two weeks has shown they mean business next season.

With the added pressure of European football, Saints have moved quickly to secure the services of Juanmi, Cédric Soares and Maarten Stekelenburg before the end of June.

Benali, speaking at the club’s inaugural golf day supported by Garmin, believes Saints are taking the right approach in terms of strengthening ahead of the new campaign.

“The club have gone about their business in their usual manner which has been needed,” Benali said. “They will have looked at qualifying for the Europa League and what needed to be done from a playing perspective if that happened.

“It seems they have gone about that business in a pretty swift manner in strengthening the squad. I’m sure there’s still business to be done. That’s only healthy for the dressing room.

“Competition for places is good. As a player I knew myself a player coming in freshened things up and kept players in the team on their toes,” he added.

“The business done has been a big statement. Players have come in of the quality that will strengthen what we have already and will complement the squad we have.

“It was a fantastic season last year but to progress you need to move forward, not stand still and aim for higher. I think that’s what the club is doing.”

Having been part of the last Southampton team to secure European football, Benali is delighted to see the current crop embracing the prospect of next season’s Europa League.

Benali’s final playing season with Saints ended in defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, which in turn secured the club of a place in Europe the following season.

The defender, who made 389 appearances in total, was not involved when Saints took on Steaua Bucharesti in the UEFA Cup in 2003, but believes the club is in much better position this time around.

“It was qualification through the FA Cup the last time the club was in Europe and that was my last playing season,” Benali told youtube.com/southamptonfc.

“I’d left by the time we were competing in Europe. It was a short-lived journey that time but I’m confident the current squad can go a lot further than what was achieved back then.

“It was an incredible season last year. It’s going to be a different campaign, with lots of challenges because of the European competition but it’s something that the club and the supporters will embrace.

“There are the obvious concerns with the strain of competing in Europe but everything that has been done over the last few years has been embraced and seen as a challenge.

“Whether it’s domestically, on or off the pitch, the club have embraced that and been positive about it. That’s the best way to approach it. 

“We’ll see where the journey takes us but you’re more likely to have success if you really embrace it.”

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