LONDON • Virgil van Dijk took advantage of some precious downtime this week, forgetting his status as the Premier League's most-wanted defender and heading instead with his young family to Disneyland in Paris.
"It was good," he said. "The most important thing when you have days off is to get away and switch off, but I am back now and looking forward to playing again, which means Spurs next Wednesday."
Manchester City and Chelsea will be in a battle for his signature when the transfer window opens on New Year's Day, although, unless the fee threatens to set a world record for a defender, Southampton will hardly have a decision to make.
Anything near or more than £50 million (S$89 million) and the resolve of the officials at St Mary's will be tested, as it has been in the past with Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw.
Van Dijk, 25, has only respect for the club who gave him his chance in England. But, equally, his ambition burns brightly. "I have ambitions like everyone else. I want to get the maximum out of myself as a player," says the 1.93m-tall Dutchman. "That takes playing at the highest level and with the national team."
No doubt, the boy from Breda is on course to become the most expensive centre-back on the planet. But his career progression has not been a smooth one.
WHERE VAN DIJK STANDS
MOST INTERCEPTIONS BY CENTRE HALVES
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Nicolas Otamendi (Man City)
MOST CLEARANCES BY ANY DEFENDER
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
MOST PASSES BY CENTRE HALVES
Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Willem II, his first club, let him join Groningen aged 18 because they were not sure that the youngster would cut it.
The Netherlands' elite - Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord - allowed van Dijk to slip away and join Celtic in 2013.
"The road I have been along has not been a typical path for a Dutch player," he says. "Normally the road will be from Groningen to a big club in Holland and then to a big club abroad. For example, Luis Suarez came to Holland and went from Groningen to Ajax to Liverpool.
"For me, the bigger clubs didn't want to touch me. Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV and AZ (Alkmaar) were not too sure about me. We needed to make a decision - wait for them or go to Celtic and hope for the best.
"Ronald Koeman (then the Southampton manager and a compatriot) was the one who gave me the chance and brought me here (to England).
"So now, if I am thinking back, it is something to smile about. I like challenges. I like to be challenged every game, every day and that is why I like the Premier League so much.
"You can lose against every opponent in the Premier League - that's what makes it so special."
Football pundit Tony Cascarino says van Dijk has no flaw.
"He's an amazing athlete, tall and extremely quick," says the retired Ireland striker. "He has a great leap, is technically sound and is very good at coming out of defence with the ball, turning into a midfielder as a move develops.
"On top of that he is very solid and reliable. He is very calm and has a good disciplinary record. Van Dijk is Rio Ferdinand and more - even better and quicker than the former Manchester United and England defender.
THE TIMES, LONDON