Matt Watson / Southampton FC / Getty
Virgil van Dijk’s efforts to rekindle his relationship with Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino have begun.
The Dutch defender expressed a desire to leave the south-coast club during the summer window following Liverpool’s failed and apparently illegal approach to sign him. He was subsequently banished from a pre-season trip to Saint-Etienne and forced to train alone.
Now he’s back on the Saints’ training pitches, but The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson understands he’s a few weeks short of match fitness after an exile which saw him miss the club’s opening four matches of the season.
(Photo courtesy: Getty)
Southampton held firm despite interest from Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea in Van Dijk, exercising its right to his cultured defending after the former Groningen and Celtic man signed a contract until 2022 last summer.
Pellegrino and the rest of the senior squad have welcomed Van Dijk back into the fold, according to Wilson, and he could now appear in reserve and Under-23 matches in a bid to quickly reach peak condition. He last featured for the Saints in January, when he suffered a serious ankle injury in a 3-0 defeat of Leicester City.
He may find it hard to win back his starting XI mantle following some strong performances from Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida in the centre-back slots. Pellegrino also added Wesley Hoedt and Jan Bednarek to his defensive ranks in the summer.
Southampton has begun the Premier League season with a win and two draws and is currently positioned eighth in the top tier.
On the international scene, the Netherlands lost 4-0 in France and beat Bulgaria 3-1 in Van Dijk’s absence during September’s World Cup qualifiers. The Dutch are at great risk of missing next summer’s Russian showpiece with three points separating it and Sweden in the play-off position of Group A with two matches left.