Arsenal’s former chief scout, Steve Rowley, advised the club not to sign Virgil van Dijk when he was at Celtic because he thought the player was ‘too nonchalant’.
Van Dijk, as you might have noticed, is one of the best central defenders in Europe right now. Given how shaky Arsenal’s defence has been for years, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that they declined the chance to sign him when he was at Celtic for a fraction of the price he ended up costing Liverpool.
“The head scout of Arsenal [then Steve Rowley] was of the opinion that he was too nonchalant,” said John Collins in conversation with beIN Sports. Collins was assistant manager at Celtic at the time. “Maybe that was part of his game, but he has so many other qualities. He is fast, powerful, strong in the air and can play football excellently. Sometimes he can be a bit nonchalant, but he is a top-quality player.”
Arsenal were heavily linked with van Dijk during his time at Celtic but the defender ended up signing for Southampton for £14.13m when he was just 24. He then, of course, went on to move to Liverpool for £71m and is the keystone of their defence that has conceded just seven league goals all season, allowing them to move six points clear at the top of the table.
Rowley had been at the club since before Arsene Wenger arrived but it was the Frenchman who promoted him to the role of chief scout. He left Arsenal towards the end of 2017 to make way for the arrival of Sven Mislintat who made an instant impact with his transfer decisions.
The summer van Dijk moved from Celtic to Southampton, Arsenal purchased just one player – Petr Cech.