When Liverpool spent £75 million on Virgil van Dijk in January 2018, many believed the club have overspent on the defender from Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp had tried desperately to sign the Dutchman the previous summer. Perhaps too desperately as the club had to release an official apology for their illegal approach and drop their interest in the centre-back.
‘Go and buy an alternative!’ screamed Liverpool fans.
But Klopp waited patiently for the dust to settle before returning in January to sign Van Dijk.
It was a big sacrifice to make with Liverpool’s league form suffering for months without the addition of a top quality centre-back.
But Klopp knew what he wanted and Van Dijk was well worth the wait - as well as the £75 million transfer fee.
It didn’t take long for Van Dijk to justify his price tag as he established himself as the best defender in the world.
He led Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League glory but his serious knee injury sustained against Everton earlier has been incredibly damaging for the club.
But it could have been oh so different for Van Dijk.
In the same transfer window that Liverpool had to withdraw their interest, he could easily have signed for rivals Manchester United.
That’s according to Charlie Austin - who was at Southampton with him at the time.
The striker appeared on talkSPORT this morning and revealed that United were interested in Van Dijk but, instead, opted for Victor Lindelof.
“I remember at the back end of his Southampton career we were on the bench together at Chelsea away, I asked him, 'come on Virg, what’s going on? Surely Man United must have been in for you?" Austin retold.
“He told me, ‘you know what, Chaz, in the summer it was between me and Lindelof, and they signed Lindelof’.
“I was like, ‘you are joking!’
“I don’t know if anyone knows that. I couldn’t believe it, I was gobsmacked. There was talk in the summer that he was going to go there, but they’ve gone and taken Lindelof instead."
According to Sky Sports, Austin's claim is true. In a list of 50 players that United failed to sign, they list Van Dijk and state how Jose Mourinho drew up a three-man shortlist of targets which were Michael Keane, Victor Lindelof and Virgil van Dijk. They opted for Lindelof for £31m.
Austin then explained how manager Mauricio Pellegrino initially prevented Van Dijk from training with the team due to the uncertainty regarded his future.
“At the time, the manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, got everybody on the pitch in pre-season, including Virg, and he told everyone, ‘look lads, Virgil wants to go, the club are not allowing him to go, so he’s not going to play. He’s not going to train with us,' Austin added.
“I remember, Virg was gobsmacked because there was no heads up from the manager, nothing, he just said, ‘you’re going to train over there with the fitness coach and physio’.
“Ultimately he didn’t move in the summer, two days later the transfer window had shut and Virg was started again on the Saturday.
“He apologised to the lads but we were all like, ‘Virg, we understand, you’re linked with Man United and Liverpool and you wanted to go, that’s fine by us. We were just happy he was still there because of the quality he brought to the team.”
Asked if he would have joined Man United, Austin added: “I’m not sure, I think he had his heart set on Liverpool.”
Everyone associated with Liverpool will just be glad United made a grave error and opted for Lindelof.
Would the Reds have won the Champions League and Premier League if United hadn't messed up? It doesn't bare thinking about for Liverpool fans...