Belfast Telegraph

Van Dijk must earn back honour of captaining Southampton - Pellegrino

Virgil van Dijk must earn back the honour of captaining Southampton, according to boss Mauricio Pellegrino.

Steven Davis will remain as Southampton's club captain despite Van Dijk's return to the St Mary's fold.

Van Dijk failed to push through a summer move to Liverpool and continues to be integrated back into Saints' first team.

The 26-year-old could well be on the bench again for Saturday's Premier League trip to Stoke, with manager Pellegrino insisting he must keep working hard to earn back Saints' trust in his leadership.

"Virgil is still one of our captains," said Pellegrino, who has skippered Saints in the past.

"I'm not thinking about this (changing club captain).

"But being captain for me, it's not a position, it's a decision: if you want to be captain, you have to deserve it."

Asked if Van Dijk deserves to captain Southampton again, Pellegrino replied: "I will think about it.

"Little by little he's getting better. It's difficult to see the best version of Virgil in his first or second game back, but we have to be patient.

"We've got another two weeks after this game due to the international break, and we'll play a friendly game in the middle.

"We're happy with his attitude, he's helping his team-mates."

Southampton have scored just four goals in six league games in a turgid opening to new boss Pellegrino's tenure.

The former Liverpool coach insists that all his players will be vital to ending that goal drought, not just his strikers.

Italy forward Manolo Gabbiadini has scored just one goal in his last 14 Premier League appearances, but Pellegrino remains unfazed by his side's finishing shortcomings.

"We have to improve our overall play in the final third," said Pellegrino.

"We need more character, belief and instinct - and we need more bodies in the box.

"But it's the most difficult thing. How many chances did Manchester United create against us, and they've got a player with quality, a massive player, and they score once. But that's football."

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