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24th Dec 2018

Arsenal passed up chance to sign Virgil Van Dijk for just £12m because he was ‘too nonchalant’

Virgil Van Dijk could have ended up a Gooner had Arsenal not turned him down for the most ridiculous of reasons while he was at Celtic

Reuben Pinder

They’ll be rueing this decision now

Virgil Van Dijk has transformed into one of the best defenders in the world at Liverpool, with some pundits claiming he is the best central defender around.

His impact on Liverpool’s play has been huge, with his excellent reading of the game and immense physicality making them much more defensively secure and his calm passing on the ball helping them build from the back with the ball.

In fact, Liverpool fans have devised a new chant for their new hero, which praises his all round game. To the tune of the Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’, Liverpool fans sing: “He’s our centre-half, he’s our number four.

“Watch him defend, and we watch him score,

“He’ll pass the ball, calm as you like,

 “He’s Virgil van Dijk, he’s Virgil van Dijk.”

Anyway, Van Dijk has taken the familiar path of moving from Southampton to Liverpool, just as Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mané did before him, but before that he first made a name for himself during his time at Celtic.

Van Dijk was hugely impressive in the Scottish Premiership, attracting attention from the Premier League. However, due to the drop in quality between the Premier League and Scotland’s top division, many clubs were sceptical about his ability to reproduce those performances south of the border.

Arsenal were one of those clubs, as Celtic’s former assistant manager has revealed.

“Arsenal’s chief scout [Steve Rowley] thought he was too nonchalant,” John Collins told beIN Sport.

“Maybe that was part of his game but he ticks so many of the other boxes.”

“He’s got pace, power, balance, distribution and he’s good in the air. ‘He can be a bit nonchalant but he is a quality player.”

“Gary McAllister was the assistant to Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and I told him I hope you’re going to come and take Virgil but Brendan didn’t fancy him and didn’t think he was better than what he already had. ‘He would’ve cost around £12m – every team watched him regularly but the worry was he was showing it against Scottish players but you could tell he was strong, powerful and a well balanced player.”

He’s certainly calm on the ball, which can be misconstrued as nonchalance, but Arsenal will surely be regretting now, having seen the monster that he has developed into.