Mauricio Pellegrino says he does not regret Saints’ decision to keep hold of Virgil van Dijk in the summer.

Saints were praised for refusing to let the Dutch defender go in the face of interest from Liverpool.

However, he looks all but certain to leave in January, and was again left out of the squad for yesterday’s hammering at Tottenham.

Manchester City have been linked with a £60m offer for van Dijk as soon as the window opens, with a quick sale seeming to suit all parties.

Chelsea and Liverpool could yet revive their previous interest in him, but, while Saints will want the best price they can get, they know they need to spend the money on fresh faces and so cannot afford to hold out for too long.

The van Dijk saga appears to have been a distraction for the best part of six months, and is still causing problems now.

Pellegrino, though, doesn’t believe that keeping him was an error of judgement from the club.

“No. I think we try to do the best for the team,” he insisted.

“The board decide this to keep our best players in the club.

“Now this situation is a big learning for everybody and now we decide in January what is the best for the club.”

Pellegrino was again not giving much away as to why he didn’t pick van Dijk, who didn’t even travel with the squad, but it is not too hard to read between the lines now.

“I decided it is the best for the team,” he said.

“I know that around Virgil will be a lot of speculation.

“This is my decision.

“The manager decides which is the best for every single game.

“We win, lose and draw with and without Virgil and in this squad right now there are a lot of players that can play.

“We are used to some changes but we can’t use today this as an excuse.”

Pellegrino was asked whether things might actually be easier for Saints if van Dijk was just sold and replied: “We have to wait until January because now I can’t control the market and we will see what happens.”

He added: “He is part of our club and we know Virgil is an important player for us.

“We will see what happens in the future.”

City appear to be the front runners for van Dijk, and clearly have the money to pay £60m to sign him, but Pellegrino said: “I can’t control the whispers and the news from outside.

“It is difficult for me to decide what happens outside the club. It is difficult to control inside so imagine outside.

“We have to wait.”