Southampton hope to welcome Virgil van Dijk back into their first-team fold this week amid fresh hope the player will retract his dream of a move to Liverpool.
The powerful Dutch defender has been training on his own for the last fortnight after telling the club he wanted to move to Anfield.
Van Dijk had told new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino he wanted to leave St Mary’s, and his apparent lack of focus led the new manager to take the dramatic decision to leave him behind.
But with Liverpool yet to contact Saints over a move for the player, the Southern Daily Echo reports the club are now ‘optimistic’ the player will abandon his wish to move to Liverpool and stay with the club for one more season at least.
The Reds were forced into a public apology over their pursuit of Van Dijk and, while they acknowledged their interest in signing him was over, there was a strong belief they could yet resurrect efforts to sign him.
However, Liverpool have so far stuck true to their word over Van Dijk and his return to Saints training will come as a timely boost for Pellegrino, who was planning on life without the former Celtic star.
Southampton plan to start the season with Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida as their centre half pairing, but the return to the fold of the 26-year-old Van Dijk will hugely increase their options.
The Dutchman has yet to play since suffering a season-ending injury in January, and his self-inflicted lack of pre-season action means he is still some way behind his colleagues.
And the Echo says Pellegrino will speak to Van Dijk upon his return to Staplewood this week in the hope of good news, and will then reintegrate him into first-team training.