Sunderland had Virgil van Dijk shocker

Sunderland have not been in the top flight since being relegated in the 2016/17 season as the Black Cats near the end of their fourth season in League One.

The Mackems fell five years ago after surviving the previous season under Sam Allardyce. The veteran manager arrived to keep Sunderland in the top flight after Dick Advocaat was sacked in October 2015.

In the summer of 2015, the northeast side brought in Wahbi Khazri, Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone, among others, and they almost managed to get the job done in the end, before falling the following year.

However, things might have been different had they been able to land one of their other targets in that transfer window: Virgil van Dijk from Celtic.

Is van Dijk the best centre-back in the world?

Yes

No

No

Advocaat wanted to bring the centre-back to the Stadium of Light and there was talk of a deal involving Steven Fletcher heading to Parkhead in return.

However, Southampton ended up completing a £13m swoop to sign the Dutch defender on 1 September, with his compatriot failing to beat Saints on the player’s signature.

In his first two seasons with the south coast club, Van Dijk averaged WhoScored ratings of 7.56 and 7.43 respectively as he consistently displayed his quality on defense. He came into the Premier League like a fish in water having arrived from the Scottish top flight, and his statistics show that he barely missed a beat.

His form caught the attention of Liverpool in the 2017/18 campaign and Jurgen Klopp moved to sign him for a fee of £75m, the most ever paid for a centre-back at the time.

Since moving to Anfield, he has won PFA, Premier League and Champions League Player of the Year awards, as well as being named in the UEFA Team of the Year. In his first three seasons with the Reds, he averaged WhoScored ratings of 7.35, 7.44 and 7.32 respectively in the Premier League, retaining his Southampton form.

Team-mate Joel Matip once called him a “complete” while former Watford striker Troy Deeney said earlier this season that the Dutch defender is “world class” with his stats and accolades. live up to that praise.

By September 2019, Transfermarkt valued him at a whopping £90m. This is an improvement on the £13m Sunderland had the chance to sign him for when they tried to get him out of Celtic in 2015, and illustrates why the Black Cats had a surprise with him that summer.

His incredible stats and achievements since arriving in England suggest he would have had a huge impact on the Sunderland team. Perhaps they wouldn’t have dropped in the leagues had they had Van Dijk’s commanding presence at the back, but it’s impossible to say for sure.

What we can say, though, is that this is one that got away…

And in other news, sold for £4m, now worth £11.7m: Sunderland had a howler on top of a “very solid” colossus…

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