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 By PA Sport

Mauricio Pellegrino 'can't control' Virgil van Dijk future at Southampton

Mauricio Pellegrino was unable to guarantee Virgil van Dijk will stay at Southampton after leaving the Netherlands defender on the substitutes' bench for Saturday's 1-0 loss at Chelsea.

Marcos Alonso's free kick was decisive as Saints' winless run was extended to five games to keep them in a congested lower half of the Premier League table.

Van Dijk was one of six changes to the line-up which had begun the midweek mauling by Leicester and his omission at Stamford Bridge sparked suggestions of a January departure.

Pellegrino insisted the former Celtic defender remained a key member of the squad after he started the previous 11 games, but would not rule out a move when the winter transfer window opens next month.

"Virgil is an important player,'' Pellegrino said. "I can't control the market. I'm not the owner of the player. I can have my opinion and this I have give to the technical director, to the chairman, my opinion. After the board can decide altogether which is the best for the team.''

Saints insisted last summer Van Dijk would not be sold despite a dalliance with Liverpool, while Manchester City and Chelsea have also been linked with a bid in the region of £70 million.

Asked if Saints' resolve remained, Pellegrino added: "I can't control this. I will recommend to try to keep our best player here in the club. The club was clear in the beginning and I have the same opinion.''

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte expressed his admiration for Van Dijk afterwards and said: "He's a really good player. He had a bad [knee] injury, but I think he recovered very well. I wish him the best.''

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