Liverpool have abandoned their hopes of signing Virgil van Dijk and apologised to Southampton for “any misunderstanding” over their interest.
Press Association Sport understands Saints had not received any contact from the Reds regarding their defender, yet the Dutch defender apparently indicated an eagerness to become the latest player to swap St Mary’s for Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp is believed to have made Van Dijk his top target, with the chance to work with the Liverpool boss reported to have played a significant role in the player’s decision – information that stuck in the craw at Southampton.
Saints are understood to have asked the Premier League on Tuesday to investigate an alleged illegal approach, which has been followed by Liverpool announcing the end of their pursuit.
“Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs,” the statement on Liverpool’s official website read.
“We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.
“We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”
Southampton did not wish to comment on a statement that followed high-level talks on Wednesday.
Press Association Sport understands those discussions were the first time the clubs had spoken this summer, having not spoken about Van Dijk before then.
It is understood the apology is likely to be the end of the matter in terms of a Premier League investigation into the approach for a player who still has five years remaining on his deal at St Mary’s.
The Reds had been expecting to pay in excess of £50milllion – a world-record fee for a defender – and were understood to be willing to make him the highest-paid player at the club.
Van Dijk is said to have preferred Liverpool ahead of interest from fellow interested parties Chelsea and Manchester City.
Last month Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger told Press Association Sport that the club would no longer be bullied in the transfer market, saying they were in a position to turn down a £60million bid for Van Dijk.
“We do not need to sell any player for the first time since I’ve been here,” Krueger said.
“I can make that statement and – unless football decides it’s in the best interests – we don’t need to do that.”