Chelsea and Liverpool look set to go head-to-head in the battle to sign Virgil van Dijk after the ambitious Dutch centre-back confirmed that he has submitted a transfer request and urged Southampton to considered interest from "top clubs" involved in European competition.
Van Dijk did not travel with his teammates on either of their pre-season trips abroad this summer and was ordered to train alone after informing new manager Mauricio Pellegrino of his wish to depart.
Southampton have been adamant that they have no desire to sell their influential team captain at any price, although initial hopes that the former Celtic defender would experience a change of heart now look to be over as a scathing Van Dijk looks to force through an exit before the transfer deadline on 31 August.
"It is with regret that I can confirm that I have today handed in a transfer request to leave Southampton Football Club," he said on Monday (7 August) in a statement released via his management company.
"Unfortunately I feel I have no alternative after I was given notice of the club's intention to impose a disciplinary sanction against me of a fine equivalent to 2 weeks wages. I will be appealing what I feel to be an unjustified sanction and their inability to follow the correct disciplinary protocol in due course.
"Over the past six months I have held numerous discussions with representatives of the board, the former manager Claude Puel as well as the new manager Mauricio Pellegrino to inform them all of my desire to leave the club in search of a new challenge.
"I am incredibly ambitious and want to achieve as much as I possibly can to fulfill my potential in what is a very short career as a professional footballer. I want to play European football again and challenge for major honours and as such I would like Southampton to consider the interest in me from top clubs should it still exist."
Van Dijk frustration
Van Dijk further claimed to be frustrated by Southampton's unwavering stance on his departure and decision to rebuff "enquiries from multiple top clubs", stating that the time he has spent on the sidelines due to a season-ending ankle injury suffered in January had made him aware of the importance of taking major opportunities when they arise.
The 26-year-old also described any suggestions that he had refused to train as untrue and "insulting" and claimed he had been open and honest in informing Pellegrino that he did not feel he was in a "settled mindset". He further expressed disappointment that conversations he believed to be private and personal had found their way into the media and stated that his previously good relationship with Southampton had been "seriously affected".
He concluded: "The time for me to move on is now and I hope to be able to work with the club to find the best resolution to suit all parties."
Liverpool issued a public apology for any "misunderstanding" and claimed to have ended their pursuit of Van Dijk in June amid suggestions that they were set to be reported to the Premier League over an alleged illegal approach. However, they are believed to have retained an interest in the player despite Jurgen Klopp's recent insistence that he does not need another centre-back.
Chelsea have similarly been linked with a potential move for a Netherlands international reported to be valued at around the £70m ($91.1m) mark, with Antonio Conte desperate to further strengthen a squad that looks somewhat short on numbers just days away from the beginning of their latest title defence. Manchester City are also believed to be chasing Van Dijk's signature.