Reds accused of 'tapping up' Saints' Van Dijk
Southampton have asked the Premier League to launch an investigation into whether Liverpool have made an illegal approach for Virgil van Dijk and the Saints are now adamant that their captain is not for sale at any price.
It was widely reported yesterday that Van Dijk wants to join Liverpool, who are reportedly prepared to pay him £180,00 a week, rather than Manchester City or Chelsea, despite Southampton saying that they have received no approach for the 25-year-old Dutchman, who signed a new contract last summer that ties him to St Mary's until 2022.
Premier League rules state that no club official or intermediary can make a direct or indirect approach to a player unless he is either out of contract or they have written consent from the selling club.
Liverpool were sanctioned earlier this year by the Premier League for 'tapping up' a schoolboy player and offering his family inducements. In that instance, they were fined £100,000 and banned from signing academy players for at least a year.
The highest-profile proven case of 'tapping up' in the Premier League remains the Ashley Cole affair when Chelsea were caught meeting Cole in 2005 while he was still at Arsenal and which resulted in a series of six-figure fines and a suspended three-point deduction.
Meanwhile, reports last night suggested that Southampton have decided to sack manager Claude Puel after just a year in charge, with the Frenchman in the process of negotiating a pay-off for the remaining two years of his contract.
Former Borussia Dortmund chief Thomas Tuchel is Saints' dream target but he would need convincing to make what would be seen as a step down.
Elsewhere, Real Madrid will now fully focus on beating a host of Premier League clubs to Monaco's Kylian Mbappe as their major attacking signing this summer, having cooled their interest in Chelsea's Eden Hazard following the Belgian captain's ankle injury on international duty that will keep him out for up to three months.
Mbappe's supreme performances last season have attracted much interest from a host of clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool - as well as a world-record asking price of £135m due to the long-term investment he represents given his talent and application at the age of just 18.
There has been a recent growing belief in France that Mbappe will give Monaco another season to aid his own development, but Real feel they can persuade Monaco to sell and the teenager to join them.
If Real get their man, that could prompt United to make a bid for Gareth Bale as well as Alvaro Morata although the Italian would prefer a move back to Juventus.
The future of David De Gea could add further intrigue to any talks between Real and United.
Hector Bellerin and Olivier Giroud have both indicated that they could be open to moves from Arsenal despite manager Arsene Wenger's attempt to complete a series of early summer signings.
The transfer of left-back Sead Kolasinac from Schalke was confirmed yesterday and Wenger has still not given up on signing Mbappe, but he faces a battle to keep some of his current squad.
Bellerin is a target of former club Barcelona and, while Arsenal are adamant that there is no prospect of him leaving this summer amid a contract that expires in 2023, the 22-year-old appears less convinced.
Giroud has also indicated that he is not completely happy at Arsenal following a season in which he started only 11 Premier League games but still scored 12 goals amid 18 substitute appearances.
Celtic will report back to Lennoxtown in a fortnight's time to being pre-season training, with the draw for the preliminary rounds of the Champions League being made on June 19. Dundalk and Celtic get their campaigns under way in the second qualifying round (first legs July 11-12, second legs July 18-19).
(© Daily Telegraph, London)