In an exclusive interview with Football FanCast, former Newcastle United midfielder Rob Lee reacted to Charlie Austin’s claim on talkSPORT that Manchester United opted to sign Victor Lindelof instead of Virgil van Dijk.
Former Southampton striker Austin said the Red Devils turned down the chance to sign Van Dijk, revealing a chat he had with the 29-year-old during their time at St Mary’s.
The highly-rated Dutch defender, who had attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs including United, handed in a transfer request to push through a move to Anfield, only for the deal to initially fall through after Liverpool publicly apologised for an alleged illegal approach for him in 2017.
But the Reds would not be dissuaded and renewed their efforts to sign him from the Saints in a then-world record deal worth £75m.
Of course, United would go on to complete the signing of Lindelof for £31m from Benfica several months later, as former manager Jose Mourinho sought to bolster his defensive options in the summer.
Whilst Lee wasn’t so easily convinced, he does believe that Van Dijk is a class above the rest of his competitors. He was asked about Austin’s comments by Football FanCast editor James Beavis this week and shared his thoughts on the subject.
He told FFC: “Well, they’ll be gutted if that’s true. Listen, Charlie Austin, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you can’t compare the players.
“Van Dijk cruised the Scottish league, absolutely cruised it. I’m amazed no one bigger than Southampton came in for him.
“But again, it’s very difficult to judge how they play in different leagues to how well they will adjust to playing in the Premier League.
“Van Dijk, before his injury, and I’m sure once he comes back, is the best centre-back in the world by a million miles.”
It’s hard to argue otherwise, isn’t it? Van Dijk has established himself as a regular starter under Jurgen Klopp and gone on to make over a hundred appearances for Liverpool, helping them to Champions League and Premier League honours.
Lindelof, meanwhile, has struggled to make much of an impression at Old Trafford, as he is battling with Eric Bailly to bag a spot alongside Harry Maguire.
With United’s shock defeat to Sheffield United still fresh on his mind, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be forgiven for wondering how things might have panned out if Van Dijk had joined their ranks instead of Lindelof in the summer of 2017.