A less than amicable separation between Southampton and noted Liverpool target Virgil van Dijk looks to be edging closer after the highly-rated centre-back was unsurprisingly omitted from manager Mauricio Pellegrino's squad for a pre-season trip to France.
Van Dijk has become one of English football's most sought-after defenders after a fine second season at St Mary's that was curtailed by an ankle injury suffered in January.
Liverpool were widely expected to sign the former Celtic favourite, but claimed to have ended their pursuit in June after issuing a public apology to Southampton for any "misunderstanding" amid suggestions that they could be reported to the Premier League for an alleged illegal approach.
However, the statement did not completely kill speculation regarding a switch to Anfield and the saga took a major twist on Friday (21 July) when Pellegrino confirmed that Van Dijk was training alone after confirming that he wants to leave.
"Now he is not involved with the team because psychologically he is not 100%," he said. "If you are not 100% with the team I need to work with the players who are 100% to defend Southampton. It's easy for me."
Despite that, Pellegrino maintained that his relationship with Van Dijk was "excellent" and that the Southampton hierarchy had made it plainly clear that he would not be sold this summer. He also expressed the hope that the player would "review his feelings" in the near future.
Van Dijk did travel to Austria with the rest of the Saints squad earlier this month, but was rested for a friendly stalemate against Swiss Super League side St Gallen as Southampton stressed the need to reintroduce him to contact situations carefully after a lengthy layoff.
The 26-year-old played no part in a 2-2 draw with Brentford on Saturday after Pellegrino's revelation and has not been named in a 25-man group set to fly to the south-eastern French spa town of Evian-les-Bains for another week-long training camp that concludes with a match against Saint-Etienne at the Stade Municipal de Chambery.
Liverpool wait on green light?
According to The Mail, Liverpool will only table an official offer for Van Dijk, who is said to valued at around the £50m ($65.1m) mark and has his heart set on a move to Merseyside, if they receive the green light from Southampton.
Asked again about that regrettable episode in Hong Kong last week, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp expressed bemusement that the club was still receiving criticism for their bungled pursuit of a key target.
"I didn't even know that I was criticised, that I'm still criticised," he said. "Was the club criticised? That's not nice. We said apologies, done. How can we say anything more about this?"