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Southampton issue update on Virgil van Dijk

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LONDON — Virgil Van Dijk did not travel with Southampton’s squad for their 5-2 hammering to Tottenham at Wembley on Boxing Day.

With Saints winless in seven and not keeping a clean sheet in their last 11 games, the longest current run in the PL, the decision to leave him out clearly wasn’t tactical, as his manager suggested.

Saints’ manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, confirmed that it was his decision to not include the Dutchman in his squad as VVD has now not featured in Saints’ last three Premier League games, sitting on the bench against Chelsea, then in the stand against Huddersfield and not involved at all against Spurs.

That says it all.

With rumors swirling that a move to Manchester City or Liverpool could be possible in January, what is behind Pellegrino’s decision to leave Van Dijk out?

“I decided it is the best for the team. I know that around Virgil, will be a lot of speculation. This is my decision,” Pellegrino said. “The manager decides which is the best for every single game. We win lose and draw with and without Virgil and in this squad right now there are a lot of players that can play. We are used to some changes but we can use today this as an excuse.

Pushed further on if he expected the Dutch center back to leave in January, Pellegrino

“We have to wait until January because now I can’t control the market and we will see what happens,” Pellegrino added. “He is part of our club and we know Virgil is an important player for us. We will see what happens in the future.”

As rumors persist that VVD will head to Liverpool or Man City in a $80 million move — six months after Liverpool were reported to the Premier League by Saints for an alleged illegal approach as they then apologized publicly and ended their interest in the defender — it is clear Van Dijk still wants out.

Van Dijk’s halfhearted displays in recent weeks have said it all.

His manager admitted that he “can’t control the whispers and the news from outside” and insisted that Saints must wait to see what happens when the January window opens next week.

Does Pellegrino have any regrets over not selling Van Dijk in the summer?

“No. I think we try to do the best for the team,” Pellegrino said. “The board decide this to keep our best players in the club. Now this situation is a big learning for everybody and now we decide in January what is the best for the club.”

With Saints’ defense ripped apart on Boxing Day against Spurs, it is clear they need reinforcements all over the pitch.

The $80 million they could get for VVD now represents his highest price, especially if Man City and Liverpool square off against one another for his signature.

Saints need to cash in, and fast, to stop their alarming slide down the table.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.