Van Dijk left out of Saints squad for second straight game, fuelling transfer talk

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk was left out of their 5-2 loss to Tottenham last night, sparking talk that he could be sold when the transfer window opens next month.

The Dutch centre back, who has been targeted by Manchester City and Liverpool, had missed his second straight game, having watched Southampton's draw with Hudderfield from the stands last Saturday.

Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino said that van Dijk was fit for selection for that game, but has decided to leave him out again amid speculation that the player wants to leave the St Mary's Stadium.

The 26-year-old has had a fractious summer with Pellegrino after a proposed move to Liverpool collapsed.

The pair seemed to have buried the hatchet, as van Dijk regained his spot in the starting line-up after making his return to the side in a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in September.

However, with City manager Pep Guardiola reportedly lining up a £50 million (S$89.7m) move for van Dijk in the winter window and Liverpool set to revive their interest in him, tension seemed to have built up between van Dijk and Pellegrino again.

Pellegrino had warned van Dijk, who trained with the rest of the squad on Sunday, that he is no longer guaranteed of a spot in the first XI.

By leaving the player out of their matchday squads for their last two games, Pellegrino also appears ready to cash in on the £70-million rated star.

The fee they received from selling van Dijk could be invested in reinforcements for their attack, which has been largely toothless this season.

Southampton denied Man City have opened talks with van Dijk, while Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal forward Paul Merson believes the Holland international will be a Liverpool player next month.

City and Liverpool are not the only options. The Sun reported that Barcelona are also keeping tabs on van Dijk. — WIRE SERVICES