Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino has hinted that Virgil van Dijk could be sold in the January transfer window after axing the centre-back from the Saints starting line-up for the 1-0 loss at Chelsea on Saturday, 16 December.

Van Dijk, 26, was approached by Liverpool during the summer and has also been linked with a £70m ($93m) move to Manchester City in January.

Speaking after the game at Stamford Bridge, Pellegrino said Southampton's owners will make a decision on whether Van Dijk will still be at the club when the January transfer window shuts.

"I can't control the market, I am not the owner," Pellegrino was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo.

"I have my opinion, I have to give to the technical director and the chairman my opinion, but the club will decide what's best.

"I can't control the market, and I am not the owner of the players, I will recommend to keep our best player here, at the club."

Liverpool pursued Van Dijk as a priority target early on during the summer transfer window but formally ended their interest after Southampton threatened to report the Reds to the Premier League over an alleged illegal approach for the player.

Virgil van Dijk
Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk is wanted by a host of top Premier League clubs Getty

Reds owners Fenway Sports Group subsequently assured Southampton that they would not make any further approach for the player unless they were invited to do so by the south coast club, but recent reports have suggested that the Merseyside club will launch a fresh attempt to sign the defender in January.

City manager Pep Guardiola is also interested in Van Dijk as he wants to strengthen his defence, while Arsenal and Chelsea are also reported to be keeping tabs on the Netherlands international.

Van Dijk joined Southampton from Celtic in September 2015. He signed a six-year contract extension just eight months into his career at the south coast club, keeping him at St Mary's until 2022.

A £70m transfer would make Van Dijk the most expensive defender in football history.