Daily Echo:

SAINTS hold an extremely strong hand if they do decide to sell prized-asset Virgil van Dijk in this extraordinarily inflated summer transfer market.

Manchester City have just made Kyle Walker the most expensive defender of all-time when they signed him for £50m from Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola has also had an eye watering £44.5m bid turned down for Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy.

This all comes in a summer of madness, during which Manchester United have already splashed £75m on Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea could shell out up to £70m on Real striker Alvaro Morata.

That’s not to mention AFC Bournemouth spending £20m on Nathan Ake and Everton buying £100m worth of new recruits.

Meanwhile, Van Dijk’s main admirers Liverpool have had a bid of £66m turned down for their other main summer target Naby Keita of RB Leipzig, having already set a new club record after signing Mohamed Salah for £39m.

It’s safe to say the world’s gone mad and there’s no sign of it stopping.

So if Liverpool do want to land Van Dijk, or even drag Saints to the negotiating table for that matter, it will take a bid that reflects the true valuation of a player in this inflated market. £60m, for example, would just not be enough.

Saints have already stated their desire not to sell any of their key men this summer, but if they were to cash in it would undoubtedly be immensely profitable on a player they signed for £13m in 2015.

Despite Liverpool’s embarrassing climb down earlier in the window, when they apologised for their actions and dropped all interest in Van Dijk after Saints reported them to the Premier League for an ‘illegal approach’, the rumour mill is still churning away.

There is daily stories about the Dutchman’s future, although it is understood that the central defender is yet to hand in a transfer request at St Mary’s.

But with the transfer market now hitting new vulgar heights, Saints have the trump card in their hands on this one, if the Merseysiders do come knocking.

Liverpool are struggling to strike a deal with Leipzig for Keita and will, if they do make a bid for Van Dijk, find St Mary’s equally as reluctant to do business.

The Anfield club need only look at their nearest rivals in the Premier League to see what lengths clubs must now go to to land certain targets.

They will need to smash their transfer record if they are to even grasp Saints’ attentions.