On this day in 2017: Virgil Van Dijk becomes the world’s most expensive defender

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Virgil Van Dijk became the world’s most expensive defender on this day in 2017 when it was announced Liverpool had agreed a deal to sign him from Southampton for £75million.

Van Dijk, 26 at the time, was confirmed as a Liverpool player days ahead of the transfer window reopening on January 1.

“Delighted and honoured to have agreed to become a Liverpool FC player,” Van Dijk said on his Instagram account.

“Today is a proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“I can’t wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special in the years to come.”

The fee for Van Dijk was a Liverpool club record and comfortably eclipsed the most ever paid for a defender, surpassing the £52m Manchester City spent on Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy in July 2017.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “I can imagine people think ‘Wow, what a number this is’, but of course for me this is not interesting.

“We don’t make the prices, the market makes the prices and the first thing all Liverpool supporters should forget is the price.”

Van Dijk had moved to Southampton from Celtic in a £13m deal in September 2015 and signed a new six-year contract at St Mary’s in the following May.

He made his Liverpool debut on January 5, 2018 and scored the winner as the Reds beat Merseyside rivals Everton 2-1 in an FA Cup third-round tie at Anfield.

Van Dijk, left, celebrates Liverpool's FA Cup win against Everton having scored on his club debut in 2018
Van Dijk, left, celebrates Liverpool’s FA Cup win against Everton having scored on his club debut in 2018 (Peter Byrne/PA)

He has since made 178 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, helping them keep 71 clean sheets and scoring 15 goals, while his impact was such that he was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2019.

Van Dijk was a cornerstone of the Liverpool team that won the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020.

In October 2020, he underwent anterior cruciate ligament surgery after sustaining a serious knee injury against Everton at Goodison Park and was sidelined for nine months.

Van Dijk returned to action in July 2021, appearing as a second-half substitute in Liverpool’s 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin in Austria.

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