Newly appointed Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has indirectly issued a warning to Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to abandon their pursuit of Dejan Lovren by expressing his desire to hold on to the centre-back for the upcoming campaign.
The 25-year-old has been linked with a move away from St. Mary's Stadium as the Reds, the Gunners and their north London rivals, Spurs, thought to be among the interested parties. Having handed in a transfer request at the end of last season, Lovren said that mentally he was already focussed on moving to Anfield in the ongoing transfer window.
Brendan Rodgers' side were believed to have tabled a bid of £20m for the Croatian international but the Saints have rejected the approach. The south coast club are reportedly holding out for £25m and Koeman has demanded the former Lyon star to return to training at the club's Staplewood Training Ground.
"I don't know. I spoke to Les Reed and I spoke two times to Dejan and he was very clear about his situation. He said it was a difficult situation and he will have another talk to the club and his agent but he's still a player for Southampton and he has to come back," Koeman explained.
"He has a contract, he has to come back this Sunday but I don't know what will happen after this. I said I am the new manager and I'd like to keep all the players, and Dejan is an important player in an important position," he said.
Talking about Lovren's decision to publicly express his desire to move to Liverpool, the former Ajax and Feyenoord boss added, "First of all, we like to keep all that information in the club and not in the press. That was not good on his side.
"It's not good for the club, not good for the rest of the players or himself. We will speak about that."
"Of course you like to have all the players in the squad happy to play for Southampton. If there is a different opinion, we will speak about that and the final decision is with the board of the club," the 51-year-old Dutchman concluded.