Deila: Southampton target Van Dijk not leaving until after Champions League qualifiers

Celtic

Ronny Deila says Celtic do not need to sell Virgil van Dijk.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila has told BBC Sport that he is under pressure to sell Virgil van Dijk - and no deal will be struck before the Champions League qualifiers regardless.

The Bhoys boss saw his side draw 2-2 away at Kilmarnock on Wednesday night, despite leading twice in what was a hugely disappointing result for Deila and his players.

Off the pitch, speculation continues to surround the future of centre back Virgil van Dijk - just as it has for the majority of the summer so far.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Wednesday that the 24-year-old was close to joining Southampton, with manager Ronald Koeman searching for another centre back having lost Toby Alderweireld to Tottenham earlier this summer.

Deila was asked about those reports after the match, but told BBC Sport that Van Dijk won't be sold before the Champions League qualifiers against Malmo, sending a clear message to any interested parties - including the Saints - that there would be no imminent deal even if Celtic do decide to sell.

"We want to keep him, we don't need to sell him and he's going to stay here for the [Champions League] qualifiers anyway," said Deila.

Van Dijk has been a star for Celtic ever since joining from Groningen two years ago, but as with many players in Scotland, the lure of playing south of the border eventually takes over.

With Southampton needing an athletic defender to replace Alderweireld in the heart of their defence, Van Dijk would be ideal, bringing pace, strength and aerial ability as well as quality on the ball, and having an experienced head like Jose Fonte alongside him could be perfect.

However, Celtic are clearly hoping Van Dijk can at least help them reach the Champions League group stage, with the slim possibility of keeping him until the January transfer window or even next summer - but eventually, Van Dijk will make the move to the Premier League, and Southampton appear ready to push for that deal this summer.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch