MAURICIO Pellegrino has urged Virgil van Dijk to knuckle down and show his commitment to Saints after the St Mary’s chief ended the Dutchman’s exile from the first team.

Van Dijk had been training alone after telling the club he wanted to leave and later handed in a transfer request in a protracted saga that lasted the summer months.

But he has now been welcomed back in to the first-team fold and Pellegrino wants the 26-year-old centre-back to demonstrate his commitment to the Saints cause.

“He has to show it on the pitch because I cannot show my commitment talking,” he said. “I have to show my commitment working on the pitch, working every single day, working on the pitch and outside the pitch.

“The best thing in football is every single game you have to show who you are. You have to defend your performances, your level.

“This is the best thing in football. The past does not matter. The money does not matter. Nothing. Everyone has the opportunity and you have to show it. Players with history in the past you have to keep showing.”

Van Dijk pushed for a move away, with Liverpool and Chelsea both monitoring his situation throughout the transfer window.

However, Saints were always adamant that he wasn’t for sale and the summer window closed with the Netherlands international very much still at St Mary's.

Although Van Dijk is now back in training, he remains unavailable for tomorrow’s game against Watford. Pellegrino explained his current situation.

"We know that he’s coming from a long period of time without playing a game and he needs to train and to play games," he said.

"I will decide this [when he comes back] in the future. The best thing in football you have to show on the pitch how you are but now everything is normal. This is good news for us."

The St Mary's chief admits keeping the 26-year-old defender is a big statement.

“It’s a message in this moment that we don’t need to sell players,” he said. “We need to keep our best players to be more competitive.

“It’s a message from the owners, from the board, the chairman and the director and it’s really good because we are now in a difficult moment to make a smaller step.

“To achieve this step we had to keep our best players, to work with them and now to build a team. This is the most difficult thing.”

Pellegrino says he met with Van Dijk and stated that "everything is normal".

He said: “I always talk with my players but also with Virgil but it’s something private and I will repeat now that everything is normal. He’s training with the team.”