Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola rules out move for Southampton's Virgil van Dijk

Pep Guardiola has denied Manchester City are poised to launch a bid for Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk.

Holland centre-back Van Dijk has been linked with a £50million move to the Etihad Stadium in the January transfer window.

It has also been claimed Chelsea and Manchester United are interested in the highly-rated 25-year-old, who joined Saints from Celtic last year, and a bidding war could ensue.

But City manager Guardiola insists Van Dijk is not a player he wants now, and in any case does not think Southampton would sell to a rival mid-season.

"Next month, Van Dijk here?" said Guardiola, when asked about the player at a press conference.

"We're going to Southampton to play against them (in April). He's not going to come here next month. Impossible."

When asked why, Guardiola said: "Because he's a Southampton player and we don't want him now."

Guardiola claims he has little need to sign players in January, although he has not ruled out the possibility completely.

He said: "If you ask me today - no. But maybe next week we're going to change and realise we need something special in one position to have one more player in that position, where maybe we do not have too much, especially in the full-backs. But in the other positions we are quite happy."

City travel to Premier League bottom side Hull on Boxing Day looking for a third successive victory.

The title-chasers have emerged from a bad spell with back-to-back wins over Watford and Arsenal in which they conceded just one goal. Those crucial results came without £50million centre-back John Stones, who was left on the bench for both games.

It remains to be seen whether the England international is recalled at the KCOM Stadium but Guardiola has no doubts about his long-term prospects despite some recent high-profile errors.

Guardiola said: "He's young, he has to improve, but he's open and he has a lot of personality. When you play in the big teams, the character is there.

"All the big clubs buy huge players. All of them have quality and the (big) difference is the personality, how they react in the bad moments. John is one of them, I don't have doubts about that."

Hinting at a return, Guardiola said the best way for Stones to get better was to "play, play and play".

"That is the only way you can improve as a football player," he added.

Asked why Stones had therefore been among the substitutes lately, Guardiola suggested it was a matter of squad rotation.

"He has played a lot," Guardiola said. "It's the first time in his career he has played every three days - it had never happened before with the Champions League and the League Cup. Every three days you have to be focused.

"If I didn't have confidence in him he would not have played the games that he played."

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