Saints manager Ronald Koeman has issued a strong message to Dejan Lovren: Don’t expect to be sold this summer.
The future of the Croatian international – who wants out of St Mary’s and who has been the subject of two unsuccessful bids from Liverpool – is one of the most pressing matters facing the club’s new boss.
Speaking at his first Saints press conference, Koeman revealed that he has told Lovren, as well as wantaway striker Dani Osvaldo, that they must report back for pre-season this Sunday.
As previously reported, Lovren, who was granted an extended break due to World Cup duty, is considering staying away in a bid to force a move to Anfield, while Osvaldo is already late returning after having produced a doctor’s note to say he is ill.
Koeman, who has spoken twice to Lovren via telephone, admitted he does not know if the 25-year-old will show up, but he has warned him that the club do not intend to sell him.
At one point, he gave a particularly clear indication that he does not expect any more departures, following the sales of Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.
“We sold three players, that’s good enough,” said Koeman. “It’s good enough money, and now we will keep the rest, because we will continue what they did last season.”
Koeman added: “As manager of Southampton, I have to do everything to keep all the best players, to keep all the key players in the team.”
The 51-year-old did concede, however, that he is not sure what will ultimately happen with Lovren and that the final decision belongs to the board.
“I know Liverpool have got a lot of money now, and normally they will spend that money and buy some players, and maybe they will buy one player of Southampton,” he said.
“Ok, that’s a normal question, but as manager of Southampton I have to do everything to keep all the best players, to keep all the key players in the team.”
Koeman also said: “I spoke to (executive director) Les Reed and I spoke two times to Dejan and he was very clear about his situation.
“I said I am the new manager and I’d like to keep all the players and Dejan is an important player in an important position.
“We have to do, and Les Reed has to do, what is the best for the club.
“He [Lovren] has a contract, he has to come back this Sunday, but I don’t know what will happen after this.
“Of course, you like to have all the players in the squad happy and happy to play for Southampton.
“If there is a different opinion we will speak about that, and the final decision is with the board of the club.”
While he insists there is a future for him at Saints, Koeman was irritated by Lovren’s decision to conduct an interview last week in which he criticised the club and said he felt as though his head was already at Liverpool.
“I wasn’t happy the way he brings everything in the press, because that’s not allowed,” said Koeman, who added Lovren had not been fined for his comments.
“It’s not good for the club, not good for the rest of the players or himself. We will speak about that.”
The Saints boss added: “When there’s somebody unhappy, come to me or go to the board and we will have a talk about that.”
Koeman continued: “We will wait and we will have a talk and I don’t say if he comes or if he doesn’t come – we will wait until Sunday and wait if he presents.”
While he would not say whether it was planned for Lovren to join in the pre-season trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, he revealed Osvaldo would be staying behind.
“We heard from the agent and the medical that he is ill and we wait until he comes back,” explained Koeman, who said he has not spoken to the forward yet.
“We go to Belgium this Sunday and he has to come back to train on his own, because he’s too late, and then we will have the talk between the club and the player.”
One player Koeman says is definitely not leaving this summer is midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
There has been plenty of speculation about the French international’s future, but his manager says he is going nowhere.
“We don’t have any bids for Schneiderlin,” he said. “I spoke to Morgan last week and he comes back in two weeks, because all the players in the World Cup get three weeks off.
“He is a player of Southampton and he will be a player of Southampton.”