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'He chose Scotland': £2.6m signing rejected Ukraine move to join Celtic instead

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Now-Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk turned down the chance to join Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv in favour of Celtic a decade ago, scout Pavel Kucherov tells FanDay. 

The Dutch international, Kucherov adds, chose Celtic because ‘he wanted to be closer to the Premier League’; English football situated just the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. 

Considering that Van Dijk would leave Celtic for Southampton, before becoming Liverpool’s £75 million record signing just a couple of seasons later, the 31-year-old can look back on the career-defining decision he made all the way back in 2013 with a well-earned sense of justification.

Photo by Oliver Hardt – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Who knows how differently Van Dijk’s career would have turned out had he instead joined a Metalist side who would be relegated from Ukraine’s top flight in 2016. 

Virgil van Dijk chose Celtic over Ukraine move

“When I worked in Ukraine, I met many football people.

Among them, agent Oleksiy Lundovsky,” says Kucherov, who knew Van Dijk from his time as a coach at Willem II.  

“Once, in a personal conversation, I told him that, in the Netherlands, there is a promising central defender whom no one knows yet; Virgil van Dijk. At that time, he was already at Groningen and absolutely no one was interested in him.  

“I recommended him through Lundovsky to Metalist. This was in 2013. But then Van Dijk had an option (to go to) Celtic.

Perhaps the Scottish club made him an offer just because of Metalist’s interest.  

“Groningen were ready to sell Van Dijk to the Kharkiv club for three million.

So he chose Scotland. He wanted to be closer to the Premier League.” 

Celtic signed a 21-year-old Van Dijk for just £2.6 million (BBC).

He would leave for Southampton for around £10 million more after two excellent seasons in the Scottish Premiership. 

Metalist Kharkiv are not the only club who missed out on the chance to sign one of the finest centre-halves of his generation either. 

“Feyenoord had no money.
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