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Claude Puel (centre) represented only one club, Monaco, during his playing career

Southampton have appointed former Nice boss Claude Puel as their new manager.

The 54-year-old Frenchman, who left the Ligue 1 club in May after four years in charge, has signed a three-year contract with Saints.

He replaces Ronald Koeman, who took over at Everton on 16 June.

Saints executive director of football Les Reed described the search for a new manager as “diligent and meticulous” and that the “process eliminated a number of excellent candidates”.

Southampton considered ex-Roma boss Rudi Garcia, while a move for former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was not pursued after initial talks.

“Claude clearly came out on top of a very impressive shortlist,” added Reed.

He added that the Puel would “meet our needs as a club” while “taking account of our culture, vision and values”.

Eric Black, Aston Villa’s caretaker manager last season following Remi Garde’s sacking, joins Puel as assistant manager with former Boulogne coach Pascal Plancque as assistant first-team coach.

Coach Sammy Lee has left the back-room team.

Following finishes of eighth and seventh, Southampton finished sixth in the Premier League last season, which earned them a place in the Europa League.

Reed said the club’s aim was to “repeat and improve on our performances in the Premier League”, adding that Puel’s Champions League experience would be “valuable” in their European campaign.

Who is Claude Puel?

Puel’s first job in management was with Monaco in 1999. He had been a player there for 17 years, of which seven were under Arsene Wenger before he joined Arsenal.

Puel led Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in 1999-2000 before taking charge at Lille in 2002.

Appointed Lyon boss in 2008, he led them to the Champions League semi-finals in 2009-10 during his three years in charge.

He took over at Nice in 2012, but left this summer after finishing fourth in the table, just outside the Champions League places.

Claude Puel spent 24 years at Monaco as a player and coach

What is his management style?

Erik Bielderman, the chief football writer for French newspaper L’Equipe, has followed Puel’s career.

He told BBC Radio Solent that Puel is a “quiet guy” with the media and will “not give great headlines”, but “speaks his mind” in the dressing room.

Bielderman described Puel the player as the “Roy Keane” of Monaco’s “very offensive, very stylish” side in the 1980s.

He added: “He loves entertaining football but he is also realistic.

“His team will never be unbalanced but they will play to win games. They are not the kind of team, like we have a lot of in France, just to play for a draw.”

Will it work at Southampton?

Bielderman said it is a “clever appointment” by Southampton rather than a “glamorous move”.

Garde, the last manager to move to the Premier League from France with an impressive coaching reputation, left Aston Villa in March after only 147 days in charge.

But Bielderman said of Puel: “This guy is suitable. Southampton is the perfect connection with Claude because he is an academy coach. He loves the academy player.”

How long will Puel stay?

Southampton, promoted to the Premier League in 2012, have since seen highly rated managers Mauricio Pochettino and Koeman leave for Tottenham and Everton respectively.

They have sold a host of players