Mauricio Pellegrino has tried to explain the reasons behind his decision to leave Virgil van Dijk out of Southampton’s squad for the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield at St Mary’s.
Van Dijk was omitted from Saints’ match-day squad entirely, as rumours continue of a January transfer to either Liverpool or Manchester City.
Pellegrino insisted those transfer links had not played a part in his decision to leave out the Holland defender, but accepted he can do little to stop such talk.
Asked why he had left out Van Dijk, Pellegrino replied: “I decided that was best for this moment. This is the reason.
“I am responsible for picking 11 players, and I intend to pick the best for the team.
“Around him will be a lot of speculation and we have to wait to see what happens.”
Asked if Van Dijk has already played his last game for Saints, Pellegrino added: “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait, but I will repeat, there will be a lot of speculation around him. We have to wait.”
Pellegrino also confirmed that striker Charlie Austin suffered a hamstring problem and will be sidelined for at least a fortnight.
The Saints boss then had to defend his forward after Huddersfield boss David Wagner accused him of trying to hurt Town keeper Jonas Lossl.
When told Wagner had suggested Austin’s actions were deliberate, Pellegrino replied: “Yeah, OK, everybody will respect his opinion but I didn’t observe any intention on the part of my player.
“I don’t think Charlie went intentionally at this moment.”