This is a guest post from Kevin Palmer, the journalist who originally broke the Virgil van Dijk news – follow him on Twitter! @RealKevinPalmer
Southampton would have been open to selling Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool for a reduced fee if the player and his agent had not staged unsanctioned meetings with Anfield officials, we can reveal.
Liverpool’s willingness to meet with Van Dijk and his agent to stage what Saints insiders suggest were ‘detailed discussions’ infuriated his employers and ensured that they would block any move in last summer’s transfer window, with that stance not affected by the Dutch centre-back’s decision to hand in a transfer request last August.
Southampton insiders have told Empire of the Kop that Liverpool were hoping to sign Van Dijk for around £50m last summer and an offer in that region in May or June of last year may have been enough to encourage Saints to consider a sale.
Yet Van Dijk’s value was dramatically inflated when Kyle Walker sealed a £50m move from Tottenham to Manchester City in July, inspiring Saints to up their valuation of their centre-back.
Southampton always intended to review their position on Van Dijk in the January transfer window and hoped the player may re-engage with their own ambitions, but he made it clear earlier this month that he was still determined to sign for Liverpool and that is when the decision was made by Saints officials to sell their star man.
Van Dijk was left out of their last three Premier League games when it became clear his days at the club were numbered, with Liverpool finally given the green light to negotiate a deal to sign Van Dijk in mid-December, when talks began in earnest.
With relations between Southampton and Liverpool strained by the events surrounding the unsolicited Van Dijk talks last summer – which resulted in a public apology to from the Anfield club to their Premier League rivals for their unsanctioned talks – the south coast club made it clear that they would not accept a deal below their £70m valuation and also informed Anfield chiefs that Manchester City were also in talks to sign the player.
In the end, the deal was thrashed out relatively quickly, with Liverpool’s opening offer only needed to be upped slightly before agreement was reached.
His availability for the knock-out phase of the Champions League inflated his value to potential suitors and it was Liverpool who put an offer on the table earlier this month that cemented their commitment to signing the player.
Liverpool are believed to have assured Van Dijk that they would return to try and sign him in the January transfer window and they have backed up that promise with an offer that seems to have satisfied all parties in this deal.
Southampton have a windfall they would not have expected to receive on an under-motivated player who has been well below his best in his eleven Premier League starts this season, while Liverpool have the defensive leader they will hope adds solidity to their wonderfully dynamic team.
Now we wait to see whether Van Dijk can live up to the hype that has made him one of the most talked about players in the Premier League throughout 2017.