“When you play for Celtic, your love for the club never goes away,” Virgil van Dijk

“Priceless” Virgil van Djik has been talking about his move to Celtic that transformed his career and set him on the way to being one of the top central defenders in world football in recent times.

Yet while he was impressing at Dutch minnows Groningen, Holland’s big three clubs all failed to fully appreciate Virgil’s potential with Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV all no doubt regretting their caution further down the road.

Virgil van Dijk of Celtic in action during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Celtic and FC Internazionale Milano on February 19, 2015 (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

£2.6m transfer fee

Unusually, some would say, Celtic showed no such caution or reluctance and paid a £2.6m transfer fee to bring the big Dutchman to Glasgow on 21 June 2013. He was an absolute stand out in Scottish football at a time when theRangers were busy making their journey through the lower divisions having to start all over again after the old club was liquidated.

He did get to play them once in the first ever meeting between the two clubs at Hampden in a League Cup semi-final in February 2015, which Celtic won comfortably.

Fees of £11.5m then £75m

On 1st September that year van Dijk left Celtic to join Southampton for a fee of £11.5m, with a 10% sell-on fee included in the deal. The would take Celtic’s income to around £17m when they received their share of the £75m Liverpool paid to take VVD to Anfield where he reached the very top of the game for club and country. These days VVD is club and country captain, a Champions League winner who has ever reason to look back on his time at Celtic soundly.

Koeman picked me up from Celtic

“When you play for Groningen as a young boy, a step to the top of the Dutch league is logical – it’s the traditional route,” Virgil explained this week, ahead of The Netherlands’ 4-0 friendly win over Scotland. “But the top three clubs, Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV, were not convinced of my qualities.

“So it was Celtic for me. That was the club that did dare to take me on.

“And that meant that I had to make a move that may have raised a few question marks.

“Later, Koeman picked me up from Celtic when he became coach of Southampton. Then, not long after that Liverpool signed up.

“It was all meant to be. Everything happens for a reason,” Virgil believes. On the 4-0 win over Scotland in Amsterdam on Thursday evening, Van Dijk admits that the scoreline flatters the Dutch. “If you look at the match, it was not really a 4-0,” he said.

“It was lifeless, especially most of the first-half. There’s plenty of work to be done. We won and kept a clean sheet but it’s clear that things have to improve, especially when we’re in possession of the ball.

European Championship

“Things have to get better in phases. Scotland had a number of transition moments where they became dangerous. They had a lot of pressure but we had the quality to play through it. There are plenty of things that need to be improved if we want to do something at the European Championship.

“Things have to be better on Tuesday against Germany or we will be punished.”

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