Saints Outcast in Line to Face Crystal Palace as Pellegrino Prepares to Bring Him Back From the Cold
Virgil van Dijk could be set to hand Southampton a massive boost and play his first senior game of the season on Saturday against Crystal Palace.
The towering defender has been given the cold shoulder by manager Mauricio Pellegrino as Van Dijk held out for a move to Liverpool all summer long.
With the Saints captain remaining on the south coast following deadline day in August, however, he has been welcomed back into the fold - and Pellegrino was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph as he hinted at a possible first-team return for Van Dijk.
He said: "Virgil was training well. He played 90 minutes the other day, the reserve game, but tomorrow (Friday) we will decide (whether he features against Palace).
"Hopefully he will be getting better every single week but I am happy with that - not just about Virgil because everybody I think is ready to be part of the team."
The 26-year-old was shipped off to train with the club's under-23s side after he handed in a transfer request to try and force through a switch to Anfield, and began to build his match fitness up with a run out against Aston Villa on Monday evening.
That came after the Reds had pulled out of a move for the ex-Celtic star after the Saints threatened to report them over an illegal approach for Van Dijk in July.
With Van Dijk potentially returning, the question about who takes up the armband now comes into question. Veteran midfielder Steven Davis has worn it in the centre-back's absence, and Pellegrino admitted that he was unsure whether Van Dijk was deserving of being handed the captaincy so soon after the dust had settled on his transfer saga.
The Argentine added: "For me the captain is something that the team-mates decide and something that you have to deserve.
"Now, when he's not playing, you cannot put the captain on someone that is not playing, but obviously Virgil was one of the leaders of the squad."