Liverpool's hopes of signing Virgil van Dijk may yet be affected by Merseyside rivals Everton, who could be set to compete with Southampton for a player seemingly earmarked as a possible replacement for the coveted centre-back.

The Liverpool Echo understand that the Toffees are pondering a move for another highly-regarded Dutch international in Wesley Hoedt, with manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh said to have discussed the Lazio defender at great length.

Southampton, along with the likes of Leicester City, have also been mentioned in connection with the 23-year-old.

The Mail reported on Monday (31 July) that the Saints were considering their own £12m ($15.8m) summer swoop as they make contingency plans for life without £60m-rated Van Dijk, whose future at St Mary's remains subject to sereious doubt.

The 26-year-old, also on the radar of Chelsea and Manchester City despite seeing his second season in the Premier League curtailed four months early by an ankle injury, was omitted from Southampton's squad for a pre-season trip to France last month after being instructed to train on his own away from the first team.

Such a banishment came after he informed new manager Mauricio Pellegrino that he "is not available to play because he wants to leave".

However, Pellegrino, who dubbed Van Dijk "psychologically not 100%" and not "100% ready to defend Southampton" maintained that the duo had an excellent relationship and insisted that he had been informed by the club that they had no plans to sell.

He also expressed hope that the former Celtic favourite might yet opt for a change of heart, with Liverpool, his preferred next employers, reportedly unwilling to table an official offer without receiving the green light from Southampton first.

The Reds are wisely treading carefully this time around after their last botched attempt to sign Van Dijk ended with a humiliating public apology issued for "any misunderstanding" amid suggestions that they were about to be reported to the Premier League over an alleged illegal approach.

Hope over Van Dijk U-turn

Reports earlier this week said that Liverpool, who claimed to have ended their interest after that tapping-up storm, had still yet to bid for Van Dijk and that Pellegrino would hold talks with his team captain this week in the hope of discovering that he has now given up on a potential switch to Anfield.

If such a U-turn is not forthcoming, then Southampton will surely be eager to further supplement their existing centre-back options - Maya Yoshida, Jack Stephens, new signing Jan Bednarek and the lesser-spotted Florin Gardos - as quickly as possible as the beginning of the 2017-18 season looms. Tottenham Hotspur's Kevin Wimmer is also being considered, along with former Middlesbrough target Hoedt.

Everton have already acquired one new centre-back this summer in the form of £25m man Michael Keane, although are looking for another with Ramiro Funes Mori set to miss another six to nine months after undergoing further surgery on a meniscus tear sustained while on international duty with Argentina in March.