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Nicola Cortese resigns as Southampton Chairman, manager Mauricio Pochettino could follow

Jan 15, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

Cortese's departure has created a huge level of instability at Southampton. Getty Images

Southampton Football Club is looking for a new leader, as Nicola Cortese resigned from his post as Executive Chairman on Wednesday night as the Premier League side has been thrown into turmoil.

In a brief statement released by the club, they revealed owner Katharina Liebherr is now the non-Executive Chairman and the hunt is already underway for Cortese’s successor.

“Southampton FC today announces that club owner Katharina Liebherr has taken on the role of non-executive Chairman. This follows the resignation of Nicola Cortese. A search has begun for a Chief Executive Officer who will take over Mr Cortese’s executive duties.”

Cortese, an Italian banker who aided German billionaire Markus Liebherr with the acquisition of the club back in 2009 for $20 million when they were on the brink of extinction and bottom of English soccer’s third-tier, has walked away from the project which has seen him turn Saints into a top 10 PL club after they were down and out. The club is now worth an estimated $180 million after a dramatic rise.

Branded a controversial and brutal figure by many Cortese, 45,  has led Southampton’s charge up the English soccer pyramid following the sudden death of Liebherr in 2010. Following that setback, Cortese has ruthlessly transformed Southampton into one of English soccer’s great success stories of recent times after back-to-back promotions from League One saw them return to the top-flight in 2012-13 and establish themselves as a forward-thinking club this term.

(MORE: The dramatic rise of Southampton FC and their fans)

However now Cortese’s work with Saints is over, with reports suggesting he handed in his resignation months ago and was waiting for it to be accepted so the man who made his name in Swiss banking could move on.

source: Getty Images

Could Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino follow Cortese by walking away?

The daughter of the man who saved Southampton back in 2010, Katharina Liebherr, has confirmed she has taken on the role of non-executive Chairman and the South Coast club are now searching for a Chief Executive Officer to replace Cortese.

“With great regret we have accepted the resignation of Mr Cortese,” Liebherr said. “He has done a wonderful job at the club and we very much wanted him to stay. A search has now begun for a successor. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we will ensure that the manager, the team and all the staff at the club have all the help and support they need.”

To add to all the drama, it also seems as though Southampton’s manager Mauricio Pochettino may be heading out of the door alongside Cortese, as the Argentine manager has previously stated his intent to leave if Cortese were to walk away.

Back in May 2013 rumors persisted that Corteses would leave the project at Southampton after a row over funds with Katharina Liebherr. Asked then if he would remain in charge if the Chairman who had appointed him left, Pochettino had the following to say:

“The reality is we share a common passion and we share a long-term plan for this club. We share our passion for football and it would not make much sense for me to continue at this club if he [Cortese] is not here. I do not understand Southampton without Nicola in the future and I think the reality is Nicola has created everything we see at Southampton now.”

It seems as if turbulent times are ahead for Southampton after their best season in decades — which sees them currently sitting in ninth place in the PL with a young talented squad full of international players — has been throw into disarray, as a disintegration at the board room level could bring the club to its knees. Pochettino could be followed out of the door by several first team players, as 18-year-old Luke Shaw is attracting the interest of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, while England internationals Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana could all leave in the January transfer window.

The next 24 hours will reveal more facts about what’s going on at St. Mary’s. But all is not well on the South Coast of England as Cortese has walked away from the Saints.

ProSoccerTalk’s lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright will be live at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton on Thursday, to deliver all the latest news as the story unfolds.

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