SAINTS legend Franny Benali is backing the club to hold on to Virgil van Dijk for at least another season – and reap the benefits.

Benali expects Van Dijk to still be a Saints player when the transfer window slams shut tonight, and believes he could fetch £80m plus after another fine season at St Mary’s.

He said: “I think the club are looking to bring one more player in but I’ll be surprised if there are any outgoings.

“Maybe one but not the big one. My gut feeling is that Virgil will still be a Saints player when the window shuts.

“I think it’ll take something extraordinary to change that. We’ll have to wait and see but I’ve been very pleased to see the club take the stance they have done with Virgil being just a year into a six-year deal.

“I’ve met him on a couple of occasions and he seems a real decent guy. There have obviously been some other influences that have been turning his head but why not try and pursue his ambition at Southampton?”

Benali believes Saints will reap the benefits of holding on to Van Dijk.

“We’ve seen it in the past with players like Morgan Schneiderlin,” he continued. “There was a lot of talk about him going to Spurs at one point.

“That didn’t happen and he knuckled down, had a season here, played really well and still got his [£25m] move to Manchester United.

“If Virgil wants to go that route there is still that option, but only after at least another season at Southampton.”

Benali reckons Van Dijk could grace a far bigger stage than those Saints’ Premier League rivals can offer.

“There’s a lot of talk about the money he could go for and seeing the sort of fees some players are fetching it could take a huge, maybe record bid to prise him away after another good season at Southampton,” he continued.

“Saints could be looking at £80m-plus. It will be a decision for the club to take but I’m pleased with the stance they have taken and would like to see him remain a Saints player as long as possible.

“He’s an absolute top class, and I would go as far as to say world-class, player.

"There’s been a lot of talk about him going to some big clubs in this country but in my opinion he could easily go to a Barcelona, Real Madrid or PSG, anywhere in the world, he’s that good.

“He always seems to be playing within himself. He can score goals at the other end and is always comfortable in possession of the ball. Everything you’d be looking for in a player.”

Assuming he stays, Benali believes Van Dijk will soon be playing at his best for Saints.

“It wouldn’t help him or the club if he didn’t refocus,” he continued.

“He would have no choice, any player wants to play so I’m sure he’d be keen to force his way back in.”

As for the window itself, Benali will be glad to see it shut.

“Any supporter or manager of most clubs will be pleased to see the window close,” he continued.

“I don’t think it’s ideal or very helpful when we’re into the season and it’s still open.

"I think it should be shut at the end of July it would be better for people to know what they’re working with before the season starts.

“Rumours of players going are not helpful to anyone.”