Former Celtic boss Ronny Deila has revealed that Manchester City passed up the opportunity to sign Virgil van Dijk prior to his eventual move to the Premier League.
Van Dijk, who began his career in his native Netherlands with Willem II and Groningen, has become arguably the world’s best defender at Liverpool, having joined the Reds in January 2018.
The 28-year-old initially entered the radar of clubs across Europe with his performances at Celtic, before his first foray into the Premier League came with a move to Southampton in 2015.
The centre-back’s career could well have taken a different path, however, with former Hoops boss Deila revealing that he was in discussions with City prior to Van Dijk’s move to the south coast.
“Did I get in touch with City? Yes,” Deila told Si Ferry’s Open Goal (via Goal). “I said you have to take him. They said, ‘okay, tell me the best European game he has played and we will watch it’.
“I couldn’t tell them what game that was because he hadn’t had any real good European games. He was really dominant in Scotland but he got sent off against Inter away.
“That was a big test. I think if he had played fantastically in that game, he would have been bought.
I think the big clubs think Scottish football is too low level and they don’t want to take a chance on a player for that kind of money.
“In Europe, then you can show how good you are. I think Van Dijk was good, but he didn’t have that one really, really good game in Europe.”
Van Dijk has had plenty of fine European performances since his move to Liverpool, scoring goals in last season’s Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich and in the quarter-finals against Porto.
The defender was also named Man of the Match in the final, before being recognised for his performances by winning the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award in August.
In other news, Thursday’s newspapers reported that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will not stop Nathaniel Clyne from leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season.