(REUTERS) – Southampton have not held talks with Premier League leaders Manchester City regarding the transfer of Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, manager Mauricio Pellegrino has confirmed.

British media reports have said City have begun negotiations with Southampton to take the powerful defender to the Etihad Stadium in the January transfer window.

“I was with (Southampton vice-chairman) Les Reed talking about that but nobody knows about that,” Pellegrino said.

“I know Virgil is an important player and around him will be a lot of speculation like other important players in the squad. I cannot control this and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Van Dijk, who has made 12 league starts for Southampton, was wanted by several clubs during the summer window, including Liverpool, who were forced to make a public apology after being accused of making an illegal approach for the player in the close season.

Pellegrino believes the intense speculation surrounding van Dijk’s future is not likely to affect the player.

“In the past, when I was a player, I didn’t have the same name as Virgil in the media but when you hear something that another club wants you, it increases the confidence.”

Van Dijk, a long-term target for Liverpool and has also been linked to Manchester City and Chelsea, was an unused substitute in the 0-1 loss to Chelsea the previous weekend and was left out of the squad entirely against Huddersfield as the Saints drew 1-1 at home on Saturday.

Southampton striker Charlie Austin has been charged retrospectively by the English FA with violent conduct for a challenge on Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.

Lossl’s face was bloodied as a result and the Dane required medical attention after Austin left his foot in while contesting the ball.

The 28-year-old faces a three-match suspension if found guilty.

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