Southampton insist their new signing Wesley Hoedt has been bought to develop alongside Virgil van Dijk, and not replace him.
The future of van Dijk has been of intense speculation for much of the summer, following an unauthorised approach by Liverpool which led to the Anfield club issuing a public apology. Chelsea and Manchester City have also been credited with an interest in the Dutchman, who is rated at £70million.
Van Dijk, who has yet to play this season, is said to favour a move to Jurgen Klopp’s side, but the Saints continue to insist the former Celtic man is not for sale. And despite the arrival of Hoedt from Lazio for £17million, they insist the 23-year-old has been signed to develop alongside his Holland team-mate.
“Wesley is one of the most promising young defenders in Europe,” said vice-chairman (Football) Les Reed. “We believe he has all the qualities to play a big part in our future, and we have worked hard to bring him to Southampton, with a number of other high-profile clubs interested in him.
“Wesley has proven his talent through his performances for Lazio, as well as the Netherlands, and we believe he can develop even further here at Southampton, alongside his international teammate Virgil van Dijk, as well as the likes of Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Jan Bednarek and Florin Gardos.”
Hoedt, who scored twice in 23 games to help Lazio to a fifth-place finish in Serie A last season, becomes Mauricio Pellegrino’s third signing of the summer following defender Jan Bednarek and midfielder Mario Lemina. He began his career at AZ Alkmaar, and has earned four international caps for Holland.