Mauricio Pellegrino admitted he was pleased to finally hand Virgil van Dijk a long awaited Saints comeback – but admitted he cannot guarantee what will happen when the transfer window reopens in January.

Van Dijk was introduced for the final few minutes of Saints’ 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and received a warm reception from the travelling fans.

The Dutch defender had not played for Saints since his season ending injury in January, and had sat out the start of this campaign due to his ongoing transfer saga.

Van Dijk handed in a transfer request but Saints refused to sell their star man, and are now focussed on getting him back into the team and on form.

However, there is little doubt that the interest in him will spark up again once the January window opens, and Saints boss Pellegrino was honest enough to admit there is no way of being sure how it will play out for his team or any other at this stage, and for now it is a case of trying to ensure van Dijk is focussed on his football.

“Hopefully yes, but now for me I have got this group of players and we try to push them, to help them, to work with them, to improve every single day,” he said.

“We never know how will be the market in January because we can bring some players because every single squad can improve.

“We have got people who are working to improve our squad all the time, and for the other teams it is the same. They will push to bring the best players.

“Virgil is one case because he is one of the best players in the Premier League and it is normal that the biggest teams in the Premier League want to sign him.”

With van Dijk having played a full game for the under-23s, trained with the first team and now having got a few more minutes under his belt, there is a decent chance he could start at home to Manchester United in Saints’ next fixture.

Van Dijk’s welcome back from the Saints fans was certainly one piece of good news, though there will be many more supporters at St Mary’s ready to have their say on Saturday.

“We have to accept that everybody can express on the pitch,” admitted Pellegrino.

“Around the player there is a lot of interest.

“You know how it works by now, it is a big business behind them.

“In the past we were a game, now we are a game but also a big business, and we have to accept that. Around him also in the same situation.

“Now we have to leave aside the situation and now everything is normal.”