Speculation over Virgil van Dijk’s future persuaded Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino to again leave out the Netherlands centre-back for Tuesday’s 5-2 thrashing at Tottenham.
Harry Kane hit a hat-trick to crown a record-breaking year as the struggling Saints were put to the sword, with Van Dijk a notable absentee.
His presence at the back might have done something to stem the tide, but Pellegrino again opted to leave the 26-year-old out of his matchday 18, as was the case for the weekend draw against Huddersfield Town after dropping him for the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.
Liverpool withdrew from a public pursuit of Van Dijk during the close season and Premier League leaders Manchester City are widely reported to be readying a £60million bid for the former Celtic defender.
“We have to wait until January. I can’t control the market, so we’ll see what happens,” said Pellegrino.
“I decided it’s best for the team and there has been a lot speculation.
“The manager decides what is the best. We win, draw and lose with and without Virgil.
“In this squad, I have a lot of players that can play. We are used to changes. We can’t use this performance as an excuse.”
Pellegrino, whose side have now won just once in their last 11 top-flight matches, also addressed whether the club’s decision to rebuff Liverpool’s earlier interest in Van Dijk had ultimately placed his first season in charge at St Mary’s under a cloud.
“We tried to do the best for the team,” said the ex-Alaves coach, who endured sections of the travelling Southampton support at Wembley signing “you’re getting sacked in the morning”.
“The board decided to try to keep our best player at the club.
“This situation is a big learning curve for everybody and now we decide what is the best for the club.
“He’s part of our club and he’s an important player for us, but we’ll see what happens. I can’t control the whispers and news from outside.”
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