Despite suggestions being made that Virgil van Dijk’s long-term future was at Anfield, there has been a twist in the story.
His current manager Claude Puel has insisted that the centre-back will remain at St. Mary’s next season, regardless of the current speculation surrounding where he’ll be this summer.
The 25-year-old, signed from Celtic in 2015 for £13m, hasn’t featured since sustaining an ankle injury in January.
He posted a video on social media earlier this week where he was running without assistance. This is important as it’s another step in his recovery process and ahead of tonight’s Premier League fixture against Arsenal, Puel revealed when he expects the Dutch international back.
“It was a bad injury, but now it’s okay. The surgery is finished, he can work normally, he can start the gym work and rehab to come back for next season….and with us.
“He is our captain, important for us. He is a fantastic player. We will wait until the beginning of the season to see him again on the pitch. He has a long contract and I think the directors want to keep him,” he continued.
So where and why are Arsenal involved here?
Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and the Gunners have all been linked with bids for his signature in recent months. A price-tag in the region of £50m has not scared away potential suitors too much , which is a worry for the Southampton hierarchy as he is believed to want to be playing Champions League football – something they cannot offer.
Ultimately, £50m is an awful lot to be paying for van Dijk and although an inflated price, offers in this price-range are certainly going to tempt Southampton into selling regardless of what they say publicly.
With Arsenal’s move to a three-at-the-back formation, being linked with an approach for van Dijk makes more sense now than it previously did.
Despite this though, his arrival would potentially have a negative influence on Arsenal’s younger defensive players. Calum Chambers is set to return from his loan spell at Middlesbrough this summer while Rob Holding has excelled when called upon this season.
Chambers, however, has been linked with a summer exit.