LONDON, England (Reuters) - Southampton have reported Liverpool to the Premier League over an illegal approach for defender Virgil van Dijk, British media reported on Tuesday.
The development is the latest twist in a transfer saga involving the sought-after centre-back who has been linked with a £60 million ($77.42 million) move away from St Mary's.
Although the 25-year-old has not commented publicly on his situation, multiple British media reports on Tuesday said he had told Liverpool he wanted to join them ahead of rival suitors Chelsea and Manchester City, even though Southampton deny receiving any approach from the Reds.
Neither club would comment on Tuesday. However, a person familiar with the situation said the Saints were unhappy with the media reports and, following a meeting of the club's hierarchy, asked the Premier League to investigate whether any rules had been broken.
Strict rules govern transfers, with clubs able to negotiate terms with players only if they are out of contract or once a fee has been agreed with the seller. The laws also govern indirect approaches via an intermediary.
Southampton have consistently said they do not intend to sell Van Dijk, who joined from Celtic for £13 million in September 2015 and signed a new six-year contract in 2016.
The new deal was a reward for a series of impressive performances at the heart of Saints' defence although he has not played since January after sustaining ankle ligament damage.
The Dutchman has made a full recovery and, should he move north, would join Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane and Nathaniel Clyne, who have joined Liverpool from Southampton in deals totalling more than £100 million in the past three years.
Klopp has identified strengthening central defence as a priority ahead of the club's qualification for the Champions League next season. It has been reported that he views Van Dijk as a potential marquee signing and the club are prepared to pay what would be a world-record price for a defender and offer Van Dijk wages of £180,000 per week.
The transfer row is the second this year involving Liverpool, who received a two-year ban on signing Academy players from other English clubs after accepting they made an illegal approach for a 12-year-old attached to Stoke City.
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Reporting by Neil Robinson; editing by Mark Heinrich