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 By PA Sport

Virgil van Dijk 'focused 100 percent' ahead of Liverpool trip - Pellegrino

Liverpool are set to make Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender ever.
Virgil van Dijk signed a six-year contract with Southampton in 2016.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino says Virgil van Dijk will be 100 percent focused in this weekend's trip to Liverpool.

Liverpool had to apologise in June for "any misunderstanding" surrounding their interest in the defender, saying they had dropped their interest after Southampton asked the Premier League to investigate an alleged improper approach.

And, having seen several players enticed away in recent years, Southampton dug in their heels and kept hold of Van Dijk despite the player's public transfer request towards the end of a messy summer.

But Saints manager Pellegrino has no doubts about the 26-year-old's mentality.

"I don't think it will be difficult because Virgil knows he is focused 100 percent on our team and is training well," he said. "He wants to improve his performances because obviously he was injured in [January] and then he didn't play any games.

"Obviously we cannot control the [transfer] market and every single transfer window clubs are looking to buy our players but we are looking for players to try to improve our squad too. It's part of our job.

"Football today is a big business -- and we have to understand this. Now clubs are fighting in the market to find the best player and we have a lot of good players -- it's part of our job. It's no secret that sometimes players are distracted but it's normal."

Mauricio Pellegrino during a news conference at Southampton's training ground.
Mauricio Pellegrino left Alaves to join Southampton.

Pellegrino, who spent time with Liverpool as a player and a coach, returns to the club in need of a morale-boosting result.

The search for more attractive, open football after Claude Puel has yet to pay dividends and the 1-0 home defeat to Burnley saw Southampton fail to score for the ninth time in 12 top-flight home games.

"When we think about the last 10 games we have had the same problem but we have to be more efficient and we need a really, really high number of chances to convert into goals," Pellegrino said.

"We could try to play in a different way but for Southampton's confidence we need to find different solutions because professionally I think the connection we all have could not get any better."

Pellegrino knows pressure is growing from the stands, though, perhaps too in the boardroom.

"The most beautiful thing in our life: to try and be better tomorrow than today," he said. "But the big risk in football is to work in football. It's like the biggest risk is to be alive, no? When you're on the motorway, you are taking a big risk. But in our job to work in football we are living for results."


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