Mauricio Pellegrino says Virgil van Dijk's return to St Mary's with Liverpool should not distract Southampton fans
Mauricio Pellegrino says he wants fans to support Southampton’s players instead of giving Virgil van Dijk a hostile reception when he returns to his former club with Liverpool.
Van Dijk became the world’s most expensive defender when the Reds paid a fee in the region of £75m for his services in January, with the Dutchman having handed in a transfer request last summer in hope of engineering a move.
The 26-year-old says he is expecting a frosty atmosphere at Sunday’s game, live on Sky Sports, but Saints manager Pellegrino admits while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, he would prefer fans to focus on getting behind his 15th-placed side.
So’ton vs Liverpool
February 11, 2018, 4:15pm
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“It’s difficult because there’s no truth about one situation, one person could be grateful with him (Van Dijk), one person can say ‘boo’. But it’s not about ‘OK this is the fact’,” said Pellegrino.
“Every single person has got an opinion about everybody and we have to respect that. But I think our fans are really respectful with ex-players.
“I think I prefer that our fans are focused on supporting our players and getting behind us. Our players have to be focusing on trying to give to our supporters good feeling, good attitude, with energy to try to be 100% on the pitch.”
Southampton claimed their first Premier League win in 13 games with a 3-2 victory against West Brom on Saturday, and Pellegrino is keen for his side to continue their momentum against Liverpool.
The manager also says the club should be “grateful” to Van Dijk for his service to the club and the profit the club made on his transfer after they signed him for a fee in the region of £11.5m in 2015.
“I think we have to be grateful with him and now we just have to think about Virgil as part of the past but he did well in our club and he leaves some profit to the club,” said Pellegrino
“We have to be focused on our game and what we have to do and obviously we play against one of the best teams in the Premier League, in my point of view, they are in the Champions League, they are a really really strong side.”