Southampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goal
Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk has told Sky Sports that he has been speaking to Everton boss Ronald Koeman since his departure from St. Mary's Stadium.
The Saints slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday night, and Claude Puel's men must now pick themselves up as they take on Everton on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday's clash sees Everton boss Ronald Koeman make his return to the South Coast having left the Saints for Goodison Park over the summer, meaning he'll be going up against a number of players he not only worked with, but also players he signed for Southampton too.
One such player is centre back Virgil van Dijk, who Koeman signed from Celtic back in September 2015, and he has been one of the top defenders in the Premier League this season with a string of fine displays.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman
He will be hoping to serve up another outstanding performance on Sunday, but he has revealed ahead of the game that he has been speaking to his former manager Koeman.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Van Dijk admitted that he is 'very grateful' to Koeman, and whilst he acknowledged that there is something between him and Koeman, he is focusing on beating his Everton side this weekend.
The giant centre back added that he was surprised when Koeman left the Saints, but he feels replacement Puel is a 'good coach', and will be looking for a win on Sunday.
Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action with Southampton's Virgil van Dijk
“I don't speak about memories but I have spoken to him and that is between him and me,” said Van Dijk. “I am very grateful for everything he has done for me. Now he is working for Everton and I am still playing for Southampton. There is something between me and him, but I am focusing on my team.”
“I was surprised (when he left). Upset is not the right word. It was his decision and,in the end, I understand a bit of his decision. They put him in a difficult situation, but I think everyone was surprised but we have moved on. We have a good coach now and he is getting the maximum out of us. It takes a bit of time but I am confident it will work.”
“It doesn't really matter (that Koeman is returning). We just have to focus on ourselves and our play and we have plenty of quality to win the game on Sunday. It's going to be another big game to win and hopefully we will make that happen,” he added.
Intriguingly, The Mirror reported over the summer that Koeman was interested in taking Van Dijk to Everton with him, but no deal materialised. Koeman would no doubt love to have Van Dijk in his defence, but with some of the Premier League's big-hitters now looking at him, the Toffees may struggle to compete for his signature.
Would you have liked to see Koeman sign Van Dijk?