New Leicester City manager Claude Puel has heralded Southampton's Virgil van Dijk as the best defender in Europe.
Puel helped the Saints to an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League last season, while also steering his team to the EFL Cup final against Manchester United.
When speaking to L'Equipe about the obstacles that Southampton faced last season, the Frenchman said: "Is everything necessarily rational? Me, I can tell you that the club discovered matches every three days.
"That we had injuries, like [Charlie] Austin or Van Dijk, who is probably the best defender of Europe, today.
“We had to get out and we did it, we made an honourable Championship and we played a League Cup final at Wembley against Manchester United. It’s been 25 years since Southampton was waiting for a final and we deserved better than this defeat. I enjoyed all that.”
26-year-old Van Dijk seemingly came close to signing for Liverpool in the summer, before Jurgen Klopp's side were accused of 'tapping up' the Dutch International and publicly withdrew their interest.
Van Dijk, so enticed by the potential move, handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force his way to Anfield. However, Southampton stood firm and rejected the bids from Liverpool.
Many reports have speculated that Liverpool are keen to resume negotiations for Van Dijk in the January transfer window, and that Klopp and the Reds' hierarchy still view the Dutchman as the number one target to help their defensive woes.