Allow your mind to fast-forward to New Year’s Day, 2018. Southampton are flying high in the Premier League, competing for a Champions League spot and looking down on a jealous Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Virgil van Dijk, their disgraced former captain, is watching on enviously from the stands, his place in the Netherlands team for the upcoming World Cup in Russia under threat having not kicked a ball in anger all season.
This is the dream scenario for the majority of Southampton fans following the latest twist in Van Dijk’s vulgar attempt to try and force a move from the south coast to Merseyside just 12 months into a six-year contract.
Having been forced to train alone since telling new manager Mauricio Pellegrino he wants out, Van Dijk’s angry two-page statement announcing he had issued a transfer request was the former Celtic’s star’s desperate last stand against Southampton’s decision to tie him to that contract.
It was also the final chapter in the breakdown of Van Dijk’s relationship with the club’s already aggrieved fan base, a premeditated move to ensure it would be virtually impossible ever to play for the club again.
How could those loyal supporters who once sang his name in adoration be expected to applaud him back onto the field after this? How could his teammates look to their skipper for leadership and inspiration knowing he had spent the previous six months secretly plotting a move away, leading to Southampton’s tapping up accusation against Liverpool?
An allegation the Reds all but admitted with their sickly apology and unconvincing promise to end their interest in signing him.
How can Pellegrino forgive Van Dijk for trying so publicly to undermine the crucial embryonic weeks of his managerial reign?
But rather than being bullied into submission by their wantaway centre-back, Southampton seem more determined than ever not to sell him — not to Liverpool anyway.
In fact, the Saints’ hierarchy would seemingly rather leave £60 million worth of talent rotting on the sidelines than bow down and allow another spoilt superstar to get his way. And who outside of Anfield can blame them?
When Van Dijk agreed to become the highest paid player in their history by committing his future until the summer of 2022, he effectively waved his right for decide his own fate. You take your money, you take your choice.
Virgil van Dijk has handed in a transfer request at Southampton.
“I am so happy. Me and my family have had the best time in my career here. The club is growing and I definitely want to grow with them,” said Van Dijk at the time.
Words, as it transpires, as hollow and meaningless as the contract they accompanied.
By following through with their threat to leave Van Dijk looking in from the outside, Southampton would be taking a unique and admirable stand; one which would be applauded by clubs across the land, fed-up with the immorality of some modern-day footballers.
Of course the more likely scenario is that Chelsea, who have been waiting patiently in the wings to see how the Van Dijk saga unfolded, come in with an eleventh-hour bid and he ends up at Stamford Bridge.
Southampton would still see this outcome as a mini victory, denying him the move he really wants, being seen to get one over on Liverpool and also lining their own bank account with a hefty sum.
But maybe just once in an era where money and greed seem to matter more than honour it would be nice to see a club strike a blow over player power.
Alex Crook is ESPN FC’s Southampton blogger. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crook