Southampton boss on why Virgil van Dijk has been dropped...with record transfer close to being finalised
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino hinted that his club made a mistake by blocking Virgil van Dijk's move to Liverpool last summer, as he refused to be drawn on the future of his Dutch defender.
Van Dijk handed in a transfer request last August as he pushed to seal a move to Liverpool, but Southampton made a decision not to sell any of their star names last summer and refused to be 'bullied' into a deal to sell their star player.
The hope was that Van Dijk would refocus on his role at Southampton, but that has not been the case and he has made it clear in recent weeks that he is still determined to move to a club playing in the Champions League.
Liverpool have lodged a offer for Van Dijk earlier this month that is 'close' to Southampton's £70m valuation of the player, but Chelsea and Manchester City continue to be linked with the centre-back.
Now Pellegrino has suggested Southampton should have sold Van Dijk last summer, rather than forcing him to stay against his wishes and sparking fresh confusion over his future in the January transfer window.
After dropping him for Southampton's last three games, Pellegrino offered up these views on the current situation.
"We have to wait until January. I can’t control the market, so we’ll see what happens," he said. "I decided it’s best for the team and there has been a lot speculation.
"We win, draw and lose with and without Virgil. In this squad, I have a lot of players that can play. We are used to changes. We can’t use this performance as an excuse.
"We tried to do the best for the team. The board decided to try to keep our best player at the club. This situation is a big learning curve for everybody and now we decide what is the best for the club.
"He’s part of our club and he’s an important player for us, but we’ll see what happens. I can’t control the whispers and news from outside."
Independent.ie broke the news last Saturday that Southampton have belatedly decided to sell Van Dijk, with Liverpool eager to compete with Manchester City and any other rival for a player who has been their top transfer target in 2017.