Steve Bruce has revealed there was an opportunity for him to sign Virgil van Dijk when he was in charge of Hull City.
The 28-year-old Dutch centre-back has been instrumental for Liverpool since joining in January 2018 and was recently named as Uefa ‘Men’s Player of the Year’ beating off stave competition from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Almost got him: Five key things to know…
- Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool from Southampton for £75m in January 2018.
- He’s since been integral to Jurgen Klopp’s side, helping them win a sixth European Cup in 2019.
- His performances earned him the title of Uefa Men’s Player of the Year.
- Steve Bruce has revealed he could have brought the Dutchman from Celtic to Hull City.
- However, nothing concrete took place and the current Newcastle United boss rued that missed opportunity.
Prior to joining England’s top division, Van Dijk was overlooked by the Netherlands’ big three clubs – Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven – whilst plying his trade for FC Groningen, their loss was Celtic’s gain and the Breda-born man-mountain quickly enhanced his reputation.
It was through stellar performances there which attracted Southampton, then managed by current Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman. However, things could have turned out differently as Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has outlined.
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“Virgil van Dijk: wow, what a player. We all know how good Liverpool are up front but signing him and the keeper [Alisson] gave Liverpool the backbone they needed, just took them to the next level,” he told The Guardian.
“I could have taken him [Van Dijk] to Hull. I had dinner with Kenny Dalglish and the owner of Celtic, Dermot Desmond, in Barbados – I’m name-dropping now – and Desmond was waxing lyrical about the best players he’s had.
“He was saying: ‘[Henrik] Larsson is definitely, definitely the best I’ve seen play for Celtic in my ownership but what I can’t understand is nobody has gone for Van Dijk.’
“I thought: ‘That’s interesting, he’s seen a lot of football over the last 12 years,’ so I tried to get him before he went to Southampton but I had no chance.”
Ballon d’Or hopes?
Following his recent crowning as Uefa’s best, Van Dijk is hoping to collect two further individual prizes. He’ll once again duke it out with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for The Best FIFA Men’s Player award before all eyes on France Football’s prestigious accolade, the Ballon d’Or.
Since the awards inception in 1955 no fewer than three defenders have earned the ‘golden ball’: Franz Beckenbauer won it twice (1972 and 1976) before Matthias Sammer (1996) and Fabio Cannavaro (2006).
As natural in these moments, Van Dijk has his supporters, including from an unexpected place. Sergio Ramos, who isn’t the most popular in the red half of Merseyside, has backed the Dutchman to go all the way.
“If Van Dijk wins it, it will be on sufficient merit – great defender,” he said.
“As a defender, it’s harder. It seems as though it’s not just Messi and Cristiano [now]. It seems there’s a route opening [for others].”