Southampton have completed the £11.5m signing of Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk from Celtic after he signed a five-year deal to move south to the Premier League.
Van Dijk had been linked with a move away from the Premier League all summer, but it was reported to hinge on Celtic’s Champions League hopes in their play-off clash with Malmo last week.
The Scottish champions were unable to hold on to their fight-leg advantage though and crashed out of the elite European competition, and it soon became clear that Van Dijk would be on the move with Saints the most likely destination.
Speaking to the club’s official website saintsfc.co.uk after completing the switch, Van Dijk said: “I’m delighted. It was a very easy decision to join this club.
“This is a very ambitious club, who have been doing very well in the last couple of years. It’s a great place to be and it’s the right step for me.
“For me now to get the opportunity to play in the Premier League is unbelievable and I will enjoy it.
“I know it’s an ambitious club – they have been through a lot throughout the years. They are trying to play football and that’s something that really attracted me.
“I’m so excited. I hope to settle in really quick, get everything around football sorted, start playing and enjoying it because the most important thing in football is to have fun and enjoy every day.”
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The 24-year-old joined Celtic in 2013 from Dutch side Groningen, and went on to make 114 appearances in all competitions including 27 in Europe. However, the highly-rated centre-back had been linked last summer with a move to the likes of Arsenal, and despite Celtic holding on to the Dutch Under-21 international, it seemed to be a case of when rather than if he would move on.
Southampton’s director of football Les Reed admitted his delight with sealing the move just hours before the transfer window deadline, and highlighted that Celtic’s Champions League exit proved to be the turning point in the Premier League club’s lengthy pursuit of the defender.
“We’re delighted to have finally got Virgil into the club after long and lengthy negotiations.
“We’ve had Virgil in our system for a long time and have explored the possibility of signing him in previous transfer windows, and this year we had a really strong opportunity to do it.
“The Champions League had an effect on the moment of release, which we were aware of, so it was about keeping our focus and doing our due diligence before eventually getting him over the line.
“He’s still a young man but a very mature young man who has played a very good level of football at Celtic and in Europe. He’s had an excellent upbringing and still has a lot of time ahead of him.
“Virgil has signed a long-term contract, so clearly sees a strong future here with us. He’s young, hungry and wants to prove himself.”
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