Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino insists there are no guarantees Virgil van Dijk will remain as captain once he returns to first-team action.
Dutch international van Dijk has not featured for the Saints since sustaining an ankle injury in January and his future at the club came into question during the summer after he handed in a transfer request.
The 26-year-old was unable to secure a move away from St Mary’s, but he has now recovered from his long-term injury and he featured for the club’s Under-23s during their 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa earlier this week.
Van Dijk is now in contention to feature for Southampton during Saturday’s Premier League clash with struggling Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, but Pellegrino has refused to confirm whether the centre back will regain the captaincy if he is selected.
“For me the captain is something that the team may decide and is something that you have to deserve, rather than the manager give the charge to be a captain,” Pellegrino told reporters.
“Now when he (Van Dijk) is not playing you cannot give the captaincy to someone who’s not playing, but obviously Virgil is…was one of the leaders.”
Southampton have failed to score in four of their five matches in all competitions to date this season, but they are priced at 2.50 to beat bottom of the table Palace, who are available at 3.00, while the draw is on offer at 3.25.