The inside story on Virgil van Dijk's move to Liverpool and why he ended up costing £25m more
INDEPENDENT.IE broke the biggest football transfer of 2017 as our exclusive on December 23rd revealed that Virgil van Dijk was on the brink of a record-breaking move to Liverpool - and now we can uncover the details behind our story that created headlines around the world.
Our sources told us in mid-December that Liverpool were stalling on Southampton's lavish demands for a fee in excess of £70m for Van Dijk, yet that stance changed last week as we were informed of a breakthrough in negotiations between the two clubs.
Southampton were still hoping to entice a late bid from Manchester City last weekend as they tried to drain every last penny out of the deal, but the prospect of a bidding war forced Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp to put his reservations over the fee to one side as he gave the green light to the £75m deal.
Klopp admitted on Friday that he was uncomfortable handing over such a huge sum of cash to land the player he has been chasing for so long, especially after he criticised Manchester United for spending so much to sign Paul Pogba last year.
Yet Independent.ie can now reveal that Liverpool have agreed to pay around £25m MORE than they were hoping to hand over last summer in their pursuit of Van Dijk, before their unsolicited and reckless approaches to snare the player forced them into an embarrassing retreat in a bid to avoid heavy Football Association punishment.
Liverpool's public apology to Southampton after Klopp staged a one-on-one meeting with Van Dijk at a Blackpool hotel earlier this year soured relations between the clubs to a point that ensured Saints would not consider selling the player last summer, even after he handed in a transfer request and pleaded to leave.
So what has changed in the months since that decision to block Van Dijk's dreams of a move to Anfield?
Southampton were determined not to be bullied into a deal to sell their star man in August and hoped Van Dijk would re-engage with their ambition once the transfer deadline passed and he got his mind back on matters on the pitch.
Yet fresh talks between Saints decision makers, Van Dijk and his agent - who has a frosty relationship with Saints chiefs after his role setting up the meeting with Klopp in Blackpool - forced the club to accept they could not persuade the player to stay.
At that point, the decision was made to push Liverpool into paying a world record fee for a defender, with the £70m asking price they set for Van Dijk last summer exceeded by a deal that will see the Reds pay the vast fee in instalments over the course of Van Dijk's contract with Liverpool.
Van Dijk and his agent will claim that they belatedly prevailed in their battle to force through the transfer, but Southampton chiefs feel vindicated that their refusal to sell last summer will serve as a warning to players who may decide to make similar efforts to leave their club in the future.
In addition, the vast fee Southampton will receive gives them a bigger than expected profit on the player they signed from Celtic for £13m in the summer of 2015.
This was a transfer that so many reports predicted would take place last summer, but Independent.ie consistently reported reporting that Southampton would not allow Van Dijk to leave unless it was on their terms.
We were also first to break the news that he was finally getting his dream move to Liverpool, even if the price was higher than Liverpool initially hoped to pay to land the player Klopp wanted more than any other.