Manchester City are nearing a £60m deal to sign Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk after the Dutchman was left out of the squad that travelled to London for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
The 26-year-old defender handed in a transfer request in the summer to try and force through a move to Liverpool, only for Saints to stand firm in the defiance against selling him and exile Van Dijk from the first team squad until the transfer window shut at the start of September.
Van Dijk has since returned to Mauricio Pellegrino’s squad and been a regular starter this season, but he was left out of the side that was named by the manager to take on Spurs and did not travel with the rest of the squad.
13 Premier League transfers that could happen in January
When asked why Van Dijk was not named in the squad, Pellegrino did not mention any injury and referenced the growing transfer speculation, before adding: “With Virgil, there is a lot of speculation, but we have to wait and see until January and then we can talk.”
Liverpool remain interested in signing Van Dijk given their continuing troubles in defence – having allowed a 2-0 lead evaporate at Arsenal last Friday to draw 3-3 – but it appears that City have steamed in ahead of the Reds in the hope of signing Van Dijk as the replacement for club captain Vincent Kompany, who Pep Guardiola feels cannot be relied upon anymore due to his persistent injury troubles.
With John Stones also sidelined with a hamstring injury, City manager Guardiola is keen to strengthen what is already the strongest defence in the Premier League, having conceded just 12 goals in 19 matches this season, and after putting off plans to bring in a new forward in Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez until the summer, he has made reinforcing City’s defence his priority.
Guardiola is currently relying on Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala at centre-back, with the Spaniard willing to sell the latter last summer had a team come on for the French defender that met City’s valuation so that they could sign West Bromwich Albion’s Jonny Evans – a deal that failed to go through before the summer transfer deadline.