Liverpool apologise, drop Van Dijk interest

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Liverpool have announced that they have ended their interest in signing Virgil van Dijk and apologised to Southampton after allegedly being accused of tapping up the defender.

The Anfield club say they regret the "misunderstanding" over their much-publicised pursuit of the Netherlands international.

It follows suggestions that Southampton were prepared to report Liverpool to the Premier League over what they considered to be an illegal approach for the 25-year-old.

A statement published via the club's official website on Wednesday read: "Liverpool football club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton football club and player transfers between the two clubs.

"We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.

"We respect Southampton's position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player."

Reports in England claimed that Van Dijk was eager to play under Jurgen Klopp, despite rumoured interest from Premier League champions Chelsea and Manchester City.

The centre-back, who signed a new six-year contract with Saints last May, is said to be valued at close to £50million.

Saints chairman Ralph Krueger claimed last month that the club would readily reject any major bids, insisting: "We do not need to sell any player for the first time since I've been here."

Liverpool have signed a number of Southampton's first-team stars in recent seasons, with Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert all leaving St Mary's Stadium for Merseyside in the past three years.

The Reds, who secured a Champions League return this season, are thought to have turned their attention to Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij and are said to have had an offer in the region of £15m turned down by the Serie A club.