Virgil Van Dijk may not play again for Southampton this season.
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Van Dijk, 25, has been Saints’ standout player at center back and the Dutch international will now miss the EFL Cup final on Feb. 26 at Wembley and most of Southampton’s remaining 15 Premier League games.
Manager Claude Puel confirmed on Thursday that van Dijk will be out for “around two to three months” and he also stated that Southampton came close to buying a new center back in the January transfer window but couldn’t bring someone in.
“We studied a lot of solutions for a new defender, but we could not find a good opportunity,” Puel said.
On van Dijk, he suffered the ankle injury in the 3-0 win against Leicester City on Jan. 22. after he cleared the ball and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy clattered into him with a studs up challenge on his ankle.
This is a massive blow for Southampton as VVD, their reigning player of the season, was named their team captain recently after Jose Fonte departed for West Ham. Fonte’s departure along with van Dijk’s injury has now left Southampton without their top two center backs.
Japanese international Maya Yoshida has stood in admirably when called upon this season and 22-year-old Jack Stephens performed well in the EFL Cup semifinal second leg win at Anfield against Liverpool last week but struggled in the heavy FA Cup defeat against Arsenal. The other options Saints have is Ryan Bertrand who can shift from left back to center back, while Romanian international center back Florin Gardos has just returned from long-term injury.
Saints losing their star man and central defender will be a big boost for Manchester United, their opponents in the EFL Cup final at Wembley Stadium in just over three weeks time.
Time will tell if the fact that Saints didn’t buy another center back in the transfer window to replace Fonte will come back to bite them. They should be fine without van Dijk to secure a midtable finish and have a good go at winning their first domestic trophy since 1976, but with VVD they’d be feeling a lot more comfortable and confident.