Manchester City and Liverpool target Virgil van Dijk says Southampton are a “very good” club for him, but that he also has ambitions of playing at the “highest level”.
Van Dijk’s consistent performances this season for Saints have seen him attract admiring glances from City and Liverpool, while Manchester United and Everton are also monitoring his situation.
Southampton are keen to hang onto him with the January transfer window approaching and have put a preventative £45m price tag on their star centre-back, but although Van Dijk is happy for the time-being he is clearly eager to play the top level.
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“Southampton is a very good club for me and it is an amazing place to be and I am happy to be part of the success,” he told the Times.
“Every player in the world has ambitions; I have ambitions like everyone else. I want to get the maximum out of myself as a player.
“I can improve in every aspect and that takes time. That takes games. That takes playing at the highest level and with the national team.
“The figures you mention about me? I cannot do anything about that. That is football these days. But I don’t feel the pressure — no chance.”
Van Dijk has certainly improved this season: he has won more overall duels (124) and aerial duels won (79) than any other Premier League defender.
Despite his stature, Van Dijk is only 25 and clearly has a bright career still ahead of him, and he thinks leadership is the next natural step.
“I know people say I am laid-back, maybe it is the way I look a bit. I am tall, people think I am slow but I am not. I have heard it quite a bit. It is more how I play,” he said.
“I like to be under control. I know when to speed the game up and I know when to take the pace out of the game as well. That is necessary sometimes.
“I try to be a leader. I think I am a natural leader and I cannot play a game without talking to everybody. I need to be involved and even if my team-mates get mad at me I don’t care. I want to be talking, organising and even if I can’t reach the strikers I still try it.
“I want to come off the pitch with my voice gone — and that happens every game.”