Virgil van Dijk may have only joined the Celtic ranks last summer, but following a season which saw him net five times in 36 Scottish Premiership appearances, claim the Scottish title and help the Bhoys’ defence go a record-breaking 1,215 minutes without conceding, potential suitors for the Dutch centre-back are hardly in short supply.
Indeed, 23 years of age, a 6 foot 4 beast boasting considerable technical ability, van Dijk looks set to become the latest Celtic player to swap Parkhead for the Premier League. Swansea have been linked by the Daily Mail and Southampton by TheMag, but Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle are said to be interested too.
With that in mind and the Scottish champions seemingly facing a losing battle, here’s FIVE replacements for the highly-rated centre-back for Ronny Deila to consider.
Having claimed the Player of the Year award for three seasons in a row at Bramall Lane and featured in the League One Team of the Year for 2012,2013 and 2014, Sheffield United’s Harry Maguire is considered to be one of the best English defenders outside of the Premiership.
He’s a good goalscorer too, with eleven for the Blades over the last two seasons. Here’s a look at some of Maguire’s strikes:
Resultantly however, the 21 year-old has recently revealed his intentions to leave South Yorkshire this summer:
— Hull City News (@Hull_City_News) July 14, 2014
A Premier League move has been mooted for the 6 foot 4 centre-back, once allegedly on the radars of Manchester United and Liverpool, with Hull City reportedly the most interested party:
— Barclays League (@BarclaysLeague) July 14, 2014
But The Express claim Celtic are also interested, and valued at around £2million, the Englishman could prove to be a real coup. Likewise, the prospect of Champions League football will certainly excite Maguire.
However, Bhoys fans will be hoping he leaves this kind of thing in League One:
When Josh Meekings joined Inverness from Ipswich Town in summer 2011, he was very much a diamond in the rough. But over the last few seasons the Bury-born defender has come on leaps and bounds, and is now regarded as one of the SPL’s hottest centre-back prospects.
The Scotsman describes him as “Quick, athletic, good in the air and a demon in the tackle,” and also praised his orchestrating performance at the heart of defence in the League Cup final against Aberdeen.
He also scored this heroic goal, running the full length of the pitch, in a friendly against Charlton Athletic last season:
There are certainly more complete and matured defenders in the Scottish top flight, but Meekings’ potential for further growth is enormous. Furthermore, there’s only one year left on his current Inverness contract, making this summer the ideal opportunity for Celtic to buy.
Every centre-back has a token unfortunate own-goal that causes them embarrasment in the years to come. This is Josh Meekings’:
Celtic lead race to sign Middlesbrough star Rhys Williams as Swansea drop interest in centre back http://t.co/OxilbCwb1D
— Daily Record Celtic (@DR_Celtic) January 23, 2014
Capable of playing at centre-back, right-back or even in midfield, the Aussie international would be a more than acceptable replacement for Virgil van Dijk, sharing the Dutchman’s technical quality. He was in good form for Boro last season too, as detailed below…
Here’s the highlights from the 25 year-old’s 2011/12 campaign, where Williams won the Player of the Year award at the Riverside Stadium…
It’s believed Williams could be available for around £1.5million, but after suffering an Achilles injury at the end of last season, it remains to be seen if Ronny Deila will be prepared to maintain his predecessor’s interest in the defender.
A more versatile option for Ronny Deila to consider is Barnsley’s Martin Cranie.
With the Tykes failing to beat the drop last season, the Yorkshire side have admitted their plans to cash-in on the 6 foot defender:
— Pete O'Rourke (@SkySportsPeteO) July 8, 2014
And despite his club plummeting into League One, the 27 year-old was in good form last season to claim four Man of the Match awards. His vitals for the campaign are detailed below…
The former Southampton and Portsmouth youngster has never quite realised his full potential, having once amassed 39 caps for England at junior level.
But capable of playing at left-back, right-back or centre-half, Cranie has a lot to offer the Celtic defence. Just check out this stylish clearance from two seasons ago:
Cranie’s value remains unclear, but having moved to Oakwell from Coventry City on a free transfer in 2012, it’s unlikely his potential Parkhead arrival would exceed the £1million mark.
Celtic acquired Virgil van Dijk from Dutch side FC Groningen last summer, so should the 23 year-old depart this summer, why not try the same trick again?
That may seem silly, but since moving to Euroborg in summer 2013 as van Dijk’s direct replacement, Brazilian-born centre-back Eric Botteghin has thoroughly excelled. Just take a look at his stats from last term:
And in case you need further evidence, some nut-bag has made a 14 minute videos of the 26 year-old’s highlights at former club FC Zwolle. Believe it or not, this is part one of three:
How highly Groningen rate the Brazilian remains unclear, but valued at a mere £1.3million by transfermarkt.com, he could prove to be yet another Eredivisie coup for the Bhoys.