Daily Echo:

Virgil van Dijk has been banished to train alone after 'telling Saints he wants to quit the club' this summer.

The Dutch centre half, who has been targeted by Liverpool, is no longer involved in pre-season preparations after telling manager Mauricio Pellegrino he is “not available to play because he wants to leave”.

Pellegrino has taken the decision to remove van Dijk from his squad, confirming that the 26-year-old will train alone at Staplewood next week while everybody else jets off to France to continue preparations for the new season.

The new Saints boss insists he has told van Dijk that the club’s position is that he is not for sale, and hopes he will think again.

“The boy said that he is not available to play because he wants to leave. This is the decision," said Pellegrino.

“I had to say 'if you don’t want to be involved because you don’t feel OK then you have to train alone until this period of time happens'.”

He added: “My relationship with Virgil is excellent. I was clear with the boy, and I was talking from the first day with him.

“The club was clear. The club told me they will not sell Virgil.

“I translated the idea of the club to the player and for me it was easy because I had to manage the dynamic of the team.

“Now he is not involved with the team because psychologically he is not 100 per cent. If you are not 100 per cent with the team I need to work with the players who are 1000 per cent to defend Southampton. It’s easy for me.”

Saints are standing firm with van Dijk, who signed a six-year contract last summer that is believed to have made him the highest-paid player in the club’s history.

Liverpool did back off from their pursuit after the tapping-up row earlier this summer, but van Dijk’s mind is clearly no longer at St Mary’s, leaving Saints in a tricky corner.

“I hope that Virgil can review his feelings because you know that today a player is big business. Not just the player but behind them is a lot of interests,” said Pellegrino.

“I don’t want to say too much but we need the player, but 100 per cent. This is the question.”

Saints are optimistic that van Dijk will accept he is staying at the club, but the situation could deteriorate quickly if the defender maintains his current stance when the squad returns from France.

When asked how long the situation could remain like this, and what might happen if it stays the same, Pellegrino replied: “I don’t know.

“I know I need all the players. I need the 25 players, I need Virgil to be involved in the dynamic every day and to be prepared to play.

“If the manager has got 26 soldiers instead of 23 it is better. We need everybody.

“When you sign a contract you are part of the team, because anyone can play your own game. It’s something we have to know from the beginning.

“The club was clear and for me it was easy, but I am responsible for the dynamic of the team.

“The group support this dynamic because we are respecting everybody, but we have to respect the club because that it is more important than any person.”

He continued: “I believe the team needs important players to be stronger but there is no player more important than all the rest. This is clear for me.

“There are a few examples that are more important than the rest – Di Stefano, Pele, I don’t know. We talk about George Best, Bobby Charlton, but I don’t know how many. Today maybe Messi.

“I believe any of us is not more important than the team, and this is crucial.

“The team needs important players, but important players need the team more than the other.”

Van Dijk's agent has been contacted for comment.