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.