Virgil van Dijk not ready for Southampton return, says Mauricio Pellegrino
Last Updated: 07/09/17 3:40pm
Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino says Virgil van Dijk needs to build up his fitness before he is considered for selection.
Van Dijk returned to first-team training this week after a tumultuous summer where he handed in a transfer request and was strongly linked with moves to Liverpool and Chelsea.
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However, Pellegrino says the Dutchman remains some way off a return to action as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since January.
"[Van Dijk] is training with the team again," confirmed Pellegrino. "How long before we see him in a first-team match? It depends on the player.
"We know he is coming from a long period of time without playing a game. He needs to train and play games. I will decide in the future.
"As a player you have to show on the pitch how ready you are but for us and Virgil everything is now normal."
Pellegrino said the details of his meeting with Van Dijk will remain private but believes Saints have shown their ambition by retaining the defender's services, despite sustained interest from Champions League sides.
"The message is that we don't need to sell players at this moment," he said.
"We need to keep our best players to be more competitive. That is the message from the owner, the board, our chairman and it's really good."
Pellegrino reported a clean bill of health ahead of Saturday's Premier League fixture with Watford at St Mary's, with Matt Targett shaking off a knock.
The Argentine has also supported the decision to close next summer's transfer window before the opening game of the Premier League season.
"It's a good decision not just for me but for everyone, even the agents," he said.
"We now focus on the competition. After three games, talking about movement and players leaving makes people anxious.
"For me it's good news for everybody."