Virgil van Dijk has returned to first team training with Southampton, according to Sky Sports. The Dutch international could come into contention for the visit of Watford on Saturday as a result, having spent much of pre-season and the early stages of this season in training with the under 23s.
Manager Mauricio Pellegrino explained that Van Dijk’s focus was not in the right place and so he would remain training with the youngsters until he regained focus, something he now appears to have done with the transfer window closed.
However, journalist Gabrielle Marcotti has claimed that the defender had agreements in place with more than one club over an exit this summer. The central defender submitted a formal transfer request, but Southampton stood firm and refused to sell their star man despite pressure from the likes of Liverpool.
Fellow defender Maya Yoshida has stepped in in his absence, and the Japanese number three has spoken to the Southampton Daily Echo to praise new boss Mauricio Pellegrino, himself a centre-back in his playing days, saying:
“Compared to last season you can immediately see we are more aggressive… He has a good philosophy… They both like to play football. They like to press high and be aggressive. We have to fight for that. Our training sessions are really hard and similar [to Mauricio Pochettino]. Under Pochettino many players fly to another level and we need to take this opportunity to learn from that and have a good example to learn form. So why don’t we take this opportunity to improve ourselves?”
The comparisons with Mauricio Pochettino will come as high praise indeed after the Argentine coach experienced a brilliant spell at Saint Mary’s before moving onto Tottenham after a period in La Liga. If Pellegrino can follow that path, he could be a top appointment and Saints will hope they can hold onto him.