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.
Southampton can’t afford to lose Dusan Tadic after reports of Ajax agreement
Mark Hughes simply cannot let this reported move materialise.
Southampton play-maker Dusan Tadic has allegedly agreed terms with Ajax, with the Dutch giants said to be willing to pay £15 million for his signature, according to reports from Dutch outlet De Telegraaf. But his current side should do all they can to scupper the deal.
The 29-year-old has become the Saints’ most creative addition, since arriving from the Eredivisie in 2014, acting as the team’s catalyst to build attacks with his technical quality and experience over his 162 appearances for the club.
Despite not having a prolific 2017/18 campaign, the Serbian international notched a respectable six goals and three assists, and Ajax are now keen to add him to their ranks after failing to win their domestic league for the fourth consecutive season.
But currently, Mark Hughes really isn’t in a position to be releasing players of Tadic’s quality, notably when a lack of creativity in the final third was undoubtedly the side’s biggest weakness. The Saints created more chances than anyone outside of the top six, yet were 15th for number of goals scored, as the final pass or finish was constantly lacking.
Take Tadic out of the equation and the team could have serious problems, as the majority of midfielders at the club are more focused on defensive duties, and are lacking in offensive quality.
Mark Hughes interested in reunion with Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron
Mark Hughes interested in bringing the experienced defender to St. Mary’s
Cameron, who turns 33 next month, was brought to Stoke by Tony Pulis in 2012 following a four-year stint with Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo.
He thrived under the leadership of Hughes, becoming a versatile and influential player for the Potters in the Premier League.
It is suggested that Cameron’s current deal includes a release clause in excess of £5 million, and Stoke will want to receive that figure if he is to leave the Bet365 stadium this summer.
Cameron is currently unsure whether he has a future at Stoke under Gary Rowett, so he will be hoping to find out when he returns to training next week.
It isn’t a secret that the Stoke boss is a fan of the player, however, heis trying to reduce the overall age of the squad following the club’s relegation from the Premier League but has stated there is room for some of the aging contingent which might include Cameron.
The American defender is highly thought of in his native country and a return to Major League Soccer has been rumoured. Championship clubs are also thought to be monitoring the situation.
The prospect of remaining in the Premier League and reuniting with Mark Hughes might be a huge factor if he decides to stay in England and finds himself out of favour with Stoke City’s promotion-chasing group.
With 149 Premier League starts to his name, there’s no doubt Cameron would add experience and valuable depth to Southampton’s defence.
Xherdan Shaqiri should join Southampton and continue in his best role
The Swiss international is wanted by a number of clubs, including Southampton.
It looks as though Xherdan Shaqiri will be on the move this summer. The Swiss star suffered relegation with Stoke City last season and is not prepared to play in the Championship. The news he could be on his way has attracted plenty of attention, with the latest reports suggesting it is Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton who are leading the race for his signature.
The Mirror reported this week that both Spurs and Southampton are keen on activating his bargain release clause of £12 million this summer.
The lure of playing for Spurs will no doubt be a feature for Shaqiri. They can offer the Champions League football he probably craves.
But he should choose Southampton instead.
Why? Here’s why?
Shaqiri thrives as a big fish in a smaller pond. During his time at hometown club FC Basel he was unstoppable and at Stoke he has been in similar form. With regular football and responsibility the 26-year-old thrives and can but in match-winning performances.
In the past, when playing for the bigger sides, he has found himself lost. At Bayern Munich he played a substitute role for his three seasons in Bavaria. Once he had enough of that, he headed to Inter Milan – another European giant.
Rightly so. In terms of talent, Shaqiri is good enough for such teams. However, again he found himself a bit-part player at the San Siro, coming off the bench more than he started.
The fact is Shaqiri is something of a luxury player and, if a team is not built around him, he does not thrive.
Southampton would automatically make him the star of their team. With the presence of his former Stoke boss Mark Hughes also a factor, then Southampton is obviously the best choice for the mercurial attacker.