Chelsea have reportedly moved into pole position to sign Virgil Van Dijk in the summer, with Southampton eyeing Mamadou Sakho as his replacement

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Chelsea have moved to the top of the pack chasing Virgil Van Dijk for a summer move. In turn, Southampton have set their sights on embattled Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho as his replacement.

Van Dijk has been the creme de la creme of English football ever since he made a £13 million move to Southampton from Celtic in 2015. A rock at the back for the Saints, the Dutch international has shown a superb reading of the game, while using his pace and tenacity to keep things quiet in defence.

Jose Fonte’s departure to West Ham elevated Van Dijk to becoming the club captain at St. Mary’s and he had played 21 times in the Premier League for Southampton before an untimely ankle injury derailed his campaign.

Chelsea bound? (Photo courtesy - Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Chelsea bound? (Photo courtesy – Michael Steele/Getty Images)

However, Van Dijk’s stellar performances in the last two seasons have made enough impression to make him one of the most highly sought after players in England. All top English clubs have enquired about a possible summer move for the 25-year-old, but Chelsea have moved into pole position to sign him.

Antonio Conte’s system of using a back-three in his favoured system has played a key role in Chelsea romping to the top of the Premier League table. But the Italian tactician could soon have his options running thin at Stamford Bridge.

That is because Branislav Ivanovic departed the West London club in the winter transfer window, with John Terry also expected to join the Serb on his way out of Stamford Bridge. In addition to that, Gary Cahill is on the wrong side of the 30s.

That leaves the Chelsea boss with just Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma in addition to Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz. A top class central defensive reinforcement is a priority as Chelsea look set to compete on four fronts next season, and Van Dijk’s qualities to play out from the back makes him a viable target for Conte to consider.

Southampton have also started making preparations to replace Van Dijk at the heart of their defence in the event of the club captain moving on from St. Mary’s in the summer. And those preparations have led them to the Northwest of England, where they are interested in signing Mamadou Sakho from Liverpool.

That way to Southampton? (Photo courtesy - Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

That way to Southampton? (Photo courtesy – Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Claude Puel was, in fact, keen on signing Sakho in the winter transfer window, before he ended up joining Crystal Palace on deadline day. The Southampton boss still retains an interest in signing Sakho, and has kept a close eye on his performances for the relegation battlers.

And all signs are pointing towards a possible summer move for Sakho as he has been in fine form for Palace ever since moving to Selhurst Park. The French centre-back has started three games for his new club, with Palace grabbing three points in each of these matches, while also keeping three clean sheets.

Sakho even won the Premier League Player of the Month for March, and it is no wonder why Puel rates him so highly to consider him as a possible replacement for his club captain. However, they could be in for some competition in order to secure Sakho’s services with Palace and Napoli also showing interest.

A possible move for Sakho will only hinge on Van Dijk departing from St. Mary’s in the summer, and even though chairman Ralph Krueger recently ruled out a summer exit, Chelsea seem to be fancying their chances of landing the Dutchman for £50 million come June.

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