Football: Virgil van Dijk and Southampton at loggerheads after transfer demand

Virgil Van Dijk had said he wanted to leave Southampton and was not available to play for the club.
Virgil Van Dijk had said he wanted to leave Southampton and was not available to play for the club.PHOTO: EPA

(GUARDIAN) - Southampton's Virgil van Dijk has been told to train alone after saying he wants to leave and has in effect, gone on strike at Southampton in an attempt to force a transfer, according to Mauricio Pellegrino.

The Saints manager said the defender had told him he wanted to leave and was not available to play for the club.

Pellegrino has responded by ordering the Netherlands international to train alone.

Van Dijk was the subject of a botched move by Liverpool earlier in the summer, with Southampton reporting the Merseyside club to the Premier League for an alleged illegal approach.

They had been willing to pay £60 million (S$106 million).

Liverpool made a public apology to try to defuse the tensions and they promised that their interest in the player had ended, although they have continued to covet him and he remains their sole defensive target.

Van Dijk has also linked to Manchester City and Chelsea - with the latter having already signed German international centre-half Antonio Rudiger from Roma for £34m.

Both of those clubs will now be back on alert for Van Dijk.

Van Dijk has been determined to join Liverpool and, according to Pellegrino, he is no longer in the right frame of mind to be involved with the Southampton first-team squad.

The club have said that the 26-year-old is not for sale and Pellegrino reiterated that stance.

He hopes that Van Dijk can be reintegrated, but he did admit that he did not know how long the current situation could go on.

As things stand, Van Dijk will not travel with Southampton to France next week for a training camp and a friendly against St Etienne.

He is under contract at St Mary's until 2022.

Pellegrino said: "The boy said that he is not available to play because he wants to leave. I had to say: 'If you don't want to be involved because you don't feel OK, then you have to train alone until this period of time is over.'"

Pellegrino described his relationship with Van Dijk as "excellent" and he said he had no option but to exclude him from training.

"I was clear with the boy, and I was talking from the first day with him," Pellegrino said.

"The club was clear. The club told me they will not sell Virgil. I communicate the idea of the club to the players and for me it was easy (to leave Van Dijk out of training) because I had to manage the dynamic of the team.

"Now he is not involved with the team because psychologically he is not 100 per cent. If you are not 100 per cent with the team, I need to work with the players who are 100 per cent to defend Southampton. It's easy for me."

The developments have reignited the Van Dijk saga, after it had died down following Liverpool's apology.

Pellegrino made all of the usual noises about how no player could be bigger than a football club and every great individual needed a team to succeed, but it is clear that the fight for Van Dijk's affections will dominate Southampton's summer.

"I repeat that the club said no (to a sale)," Pellegrino said.

"I hope that Virgil can review his feelings because you know that today, a player is big business. Not just the player but behind them is a lot of interests.

"I don't want to say too much but we need the player, 100 per cent. I want to help the squad, I want to help Virgil, but we need a player and, I repeat, involved in every training session, not just with the body but with the mind on the pitch with the rest of the players."