In our Transfers that shook the club feature, Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at deals that had many may not have seen coming and the impact that they had during their time by using statistical data and pundit remarks.
When Virgil van Dijk joined Southampton from Celtic in 2015, he made an instant impact.
The Dutch defender, who had spent the previous two seasons absolutely cruising through the Scottish top-flight, regularly scoring free-kicks and running through opposing teams looked right at home after making the move across the border. Indeed, success followed for the Netherlands international on the south coast; he would go on to play 80 times for the southerners, scoring seven goals in the process (via Transfermarkt).
Van Dijk became an instant hit among fans at St Mary’s for his composed performances in the heart of defence. He helped the club achieve back-to-back top-eight finishes in the Premier League under manager’s Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel, with the Saints obtaining their highest ever Premier League finish during the Dutchman’s first season at the club (6th).
During his two full seasons in Hampshire, the defender made the most interceptions per game of anyone in the squad (2.6 and 2.8 according to WhoScored) as well as the most clearances (6.8 and 7.6) over the same period, proving himself as a resolute defender. Interestingly, that looks particularly poignant now, considering the defensive struggles current boss Ralph Hasenhuttl is having to deal with.
Interestingly enough, no Saints player this season is averaging as many interceptions or clearances per game than van Dijk did during his time in red and white, so it’s not hard to suggest that the club have failed to replace him despite having a world-record fee to re-invest in January 2018 when Liverpool came calling. In fact, no one could better his numbers in those metrics last season, either.
Since moving to Merseyside, he has obviously gone from strength to strength and is now a Champions League winner. Earlier this year, the 28-year-old won the prestigious UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award, while he was also voted the PFA Player of the Season by his peers last term.
While the money received for him and the manner of his exit might dominate the narrative when looking back at his time in Southampton, his arrival from Celtic in 2015 rocked the club in terms of instantly tightening things up right away, to a level they’ve been unable to get to since.
Saints fans, is van Dijk the best defender your club has ever had? Let us know below!
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