Liverpool broke the transfer record for a defender at the time by buying Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in a deal said to be worth around £75m in 2017. However, Crystal Palace could have bought him for a fraction of the price the Reds ended up paying the Saints.
Every club has the transfers that got away, the ones that keep you up at night and cause you sleepless nights. The Eagles are no exception to the rule, as they have missed the opportunity to sign some of the best players in the world on several occasions before they went on to do bigger and better things, arguably none more so than Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, with whom they were linked with in the past.
According to Roy Hodgson’s predecessor Neil Warnock, Palace had the chance to sign the Netherlands captain from Celtic for a fraction of the price he would cost the Reds, but his chief scout insisted he should look elsewhere instead.
The former Palace manager told talkSPORT: “We could have bought him at Palace for £6m but my chief scout told me he was too slow. I think he’s still in a job as well!”
Instead, Van Dijk joined Southampton, before he was subsequently sold for £75m, which was the world record fee for a defender, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, nobody could ever have quite predicted that the Dutchman would turn out to be such a “dominant” force to be reckoned with – not that that will do Palace fans any good at all.
Whilst it’d be a bit of a reach to suggest that the Eagles would have gone on to win the Champions League and the Premier League, it’s fair to say that he would have been a useful asset at both ends of the pitch.
Warnock was sacked around Christmas time during his second stint at Selhurst Park. Whilst his replacement Alan Pardew steered the Eagles to Premier League survival, they still shipped 51 goals over the duration of the campaign, which was the eighth-worst in the division at the time.
Whether or not Van Dijk would’ve made an immediate impact, we will never know, but it’s telling that the defensive colossus made more clearances per game in the 2014/15 season than any other centre-back who was on the club’s books back then. This includes both Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward, by the way.
Granted, Hodgson is hardly short of defensive options, as he can call upon the services of Gary Cahill, Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins and Scott Dann. However, the Palace boss may not have needed to sign Cahill as a free agent, as Van Dijk’s average rating is far higher than the former Chelsea defender’s statistical score over the course of his entire career.
AND in other news, Crystal Palace must secure deal for Middlesbrough defender Djed Spence…