BRENDAN RODGERS today predicted a summer move for ex-Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk to one of the elite teams in the Premier League.
The Dutch internationalist moved from Celtic to Southampton at the end of the 2014-15 season for a fee of around £13million and was been described as the best central defender in the English top division before picking up an ankle injury which sidelined him for the League Cup Final defeat to Manchester United.
Such was his form in his debut season in English football, Southampton signed him up on a new, improved long term contract. This meant that any moves to sign the player in the January window would have had to have been in the region of £40m to interest the Saints who made it clear that they had no intention of selling the former Celt.
Now the transfer saga is set to kick off again with Chelsea the latest club to be linked to the player. Veteran defender John Terry announced that he would be leaving the league leaders and FA Cup Finalists at the end of the season and Van Dijk tops the list of replacements.
Now the former Liverpool boss, whose current side yesterday eased past their Glasgow rivals Rangers to reach the Scottish Cup final, has told Talk Radio that he believes the time is right for Van Dijk to move to one of the top clubs in England.
“The problem sometimes for some of the guys playing up here for Celtic is that people were thinking that they were only playing in Scottish football, which is of course a less competitive league than the Premier League,” explained Rodgers.
“But if you’re doing it at a European level for Celtic and you’re playing under the pressure for Celtic, then you have to have something about you.
“I speak to the guys at the club who have worked with Virgil van Dijk, and he’s always had those qualities. It’s just up to someone to take that punt on him.
“He’s 6ft 4in, he’s fast, he can play, he’s an international footballer, he’s good in the air – he’s got everything.
“You saw that in a player like Wanyama when he was up here as well, you know they’re a top player.
“Virgil is at a great club, let’s not forget, Southampton is a fantastic club, and if he left there then of course it would have to be what you would consider to be one of the top four or top six clubs.”
Should the likes of Chelsea sign van Dijk in the summer then Rodgers would be in line for a bumper £6million windfall from the sell-on clause in the deal Celtic struck with Southampton.
That could fund one of the two quality summer signings Rodgers is now eyeing as he aims to tighten his grip on Scottish football and make an impact in the Champions League, where Celtic if they negotiate the qualifiers, look set to be in the third pot sides in the draw for the group stages.