Arsenal turned down the chance to sign Virgil van Dijk when he was worth just £12m, according to Celtic assistant manager John Collins.
When van Dijk first came to the Premier League, he did so by joining Southampton from Celtic. However, according to Collins, Arsenal scouts were already on his case before that. At the time, they decided against signing the defender.
“Arsenal’s chief scout thought he was a little bit too nonchalant,” Collins said. “Maybe that was part of his game but he ticks so many other boxes; pace, power, balance, distribution, good in the air. He is a quality player.
“He would have cost £12million. The worry was that he was showing the quality against Scottish players and the question was whether he could do it against top quality English defenders.
“He was really shocked none of the big boys came in for him, he could have made any other team in Europe better.”
Unfortunately, it’s true that players in the Scottish Premier League aren’t really tested to anywhere near the same level as those in England. You don’t know for sure whether a player is as good as he looks up there.
A team like Southampton are more willing to take the risk, because there’s less pressure on them to get it right every single time in the transfer market. In the end, it worked out fantastically for them, as they got a couple of seasons of good performances from the Dutch defender and then sold him on for a massive profit.
Arsenal weren’t the only team who passed on van Dijk with Celtic. Reportedly, Liverpool also decided against signing the centre-back back then.
They could’ve saved themselves £63m by buying him a bit earlier, but then you never know how a player would’ve developed somewhere else. Maybe Paul Pogba never would’ve become an £89m man if he stayed with Manchester United instead of joining Juventus. It’s hard to say.