(Reuters) - Southampton will not sell captain Virgil van Dijk in the next transfer window as he recovers from a long-term injury, the Premier League club’s manager Claude Puel has said.
Netherlands centre back Van Dijk had been a key part of the Southampton defence since arriving at St Mary’s from Celtic at the start of 2015-16 season but has not played since suffering an ankle injury against Leicester City in January.
British media have linked the 25-year-old with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City but Puel said he was confident Van Dijk would still be a Southampton player next season.
”It was a bad injury,“ Puel told a news conference before they host Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday. ”But now it’s okay. The surgery is finished... 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. 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”.
Puel also hopes striker Charlie Austin, who has been out of action since December with a shoulder injury, will be back in action this season after playing for the under-23s last week.
“I am happy with his work. If he continues perhaps it would be interesting to see him play,” Puel added.
Following the Arsenal clash, 10th-placed Southampton face a trip to second-bottom side Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris