It was an embarrassing day for the five-time European champions as they had to abandoned their hopes of signing their top transfer target this summer, Virgil van Dijk, and apologize to Southampton for “any misunderstanding” over their interest in the defender.
The newspapers seemed convinced that Southampton defender was about to follow a familiar path and leave St. Mary’s for Anfield in what is being called a British record fee for a defender.
But the Saints were apparently fed up being a feeder club for Liverpool and BBC Radio Solent reported on Monday that Southampton was going to reportLiverpool to the Premier League for an illegal approach for the centre-back.
That news story was apparently enough to have Liverpool drop its interest in the player, issuing a statement that read:
“Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs,” the statement on Liverpool’s official website read.
“We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.
“We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”
This is not the first time that Liverpool have got into trouble for tapping up a player. The Reds are currently serving a two-year suspension from signing youth players registered with Premier League or EFL clubs in the preceding 18 months.
They have admitted to making an illegal approach last year to a 12-year-old attached to Stoke’s academy. The second year of the ban is suspended for three years.
Last month, Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger told PA Sport the club could turn down even a £60 million bid for Van Dijk.
“Can we? Yes,” Krueger said.
“We do not need to sell any player for the first time since I’ve been here.”
The Netherlands international is the latest in a long line of Southampton stars to catch the eye of Liverpool, who have signed Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren from St Mary’s, all in the last three years.