Monday 8 May 2017 22:08, UK
Virgil van Dijk will still be a Southampton player next season, according to his manager Claude Puel.
The Saints captain is recuperating after surgery on the ankle damage he suffered playing against Leicester on January 22.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday's Premier League game against Arsenal, Puel said he expected Van Dijk back at the start of next season - and in a Southampton shirt.
"It was a bad injury," he said. "But now it's okay. The surgery is finished, he can work normally, he can start the gym work and rehab to come back for next season....and with us.
"He is our captain. He is important for us. He is a fantastic player. We will wait until the beginning of the season to see him again on the pitch. He has a long contract and I think the directors want to keep him".
Saints chairman Ralph Krueger made it clear in February he wants to keep van Dijk, who has been widely linked with Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Krueger said: "We are just out of the January transfer window and are striving to keep this group together and to build on it.
"Virgil is very committed us for a long time and we don't see anything but that in our future. He is our team captain and we don't see him anywhere else than in red and white stripes."
Puel also said he hopes to use Charlie Austin - out since December with a shoulder injury - before the end of the season.
Austin played an hour for the club's U23 side last week, and Puel said: "I am happy with his work. If he continues perhaps it would be interesting to see him play."