Southampton's Virgil van Dijk out for at least two months with ankle injury
By Andy Charles
Last Updated: 02/02/17 3:10pm
Virgil van Dijk will miss at least two months with an ankle injury, Southampton boss Claude Puel has confirmed.
Van Dijk has already missed three games with the injury he suffered against Leicester on January 22 and he is unlikely to play again until April at the earliest, meaning he will miss the EFL Cup final against Manchester United later this month.
Puel confirmed the Dutchman's extended absence at his press conference on Thursday when he revealed a defensive addition had been his main aim during the January transfer window.
On top of losing Van Dijk, Southampton sold centre-back Jose Fonte to Premier League rivals West Ham, but Puel was unable to source a replacement.
That meant youngster Jack Stephens filling in at the heart of the Saints back-four alongside Maya Yoshida when they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Swansea on Tuesday.
But Puel is mulling over a move for England international left-back Ryan Bertrand now he knows the likely extent of Van Dijk's absence.
"He will not be available for many weeks, two or three months," said Puel.
"It's an important problem and difficult for us. He is important for the group and the fans with his quality and leadership.
"It's a blow but we will find a solution. For the semi-final second leg against Liverpool we got a fantastic result without him and we will continue with other possibilities.
"Ryan Bertrand can play in this position, and we will see with young players like Jack Stephens. We have possibilities.
"We studied a lot of solutions and possibilities but we could not find a good opportunity in January. We worked hard but without success so we continue with this squad to find a solution.
"Of course we wanted to replace him and now we are unhappy with the injury of Virgil. We worked hard but could not find a solution.
"It's different because Jose is not just a player, not just a centre-back, he was the captain, and it was a deal with a club. All this was not an obligation, but almost. Keeping a player who is unhappy is difficult. It's always a problem in the team and the squad so it was important."