Mauricio Pellegrino has played down suggestions that Manchester City have opened formal talks with Saints over a January move for Virgil van Dijk.

Reports claimed that Pep Guardiola’s side were keen to capture the Dutchman when the window opens, and had started to talk about the possibility of getting the deal done with the Saints hierarchy.

However, Pellegrino confirmed he had discussed the matter with Saints vice chairman and football supremo Les Reed, who denied talks were taking place.

He said: “I don’t think so.

“This morning I was with Les talking about that but nobody knows about that.

“I know Virgil is an important player and around him will be a lot of speculation like other important players in the squad.

“I cannot control this and I don’t want to talk about it.

“We have an important game that we need to win, and have a good performance.”

There is sure to be intense speculation over van Dijk’s future in the coming weeks, but like the summer transfer window there is no chance of him leaving if nobody makes a sizeable offer.

Pellegrino was asked whether he feared the speculation would affect van Dijk, particularly given the player’s stance in the summer where he made clear his desire to leave and wasn’t available for selection as a result.

“I don’t know,” admitted Pellegrino.

“In the past when I was a player I didn’t have the same name as Virgil in the media, but when you hear something that another club wants you it increases the confidence.

“I think it increases the confidence of the player.”

Van Dijk was left out for last week’s defeat to Chelsea, but is expected to be recalled for the crunch clash with Huddersfield this afternoon.

“I will decide after the team and Virgil is like everybody.

“He can be on the bench because I have to rotate all of them when you have a lot of games in a row like last week.

“This week also we have three difficult games.

“I think we will need all of them fresh and we have enough squad to change some players.

“There is nothing more to talk about.”