Football: City leading race to sign van Dijk

Southampton's Virgil van Dijk during the lap of appreciation on the final day of the season. He could be Manchester City's third signing in the off-season, after Ederson and Bernardo Silva.
Southampton's Virgil van Dijk during the lap of appreciation on the final day of the season. He could be Manchester City's third signing in the off-season, after Ederson and Bernardo Silva.PHOTO: REUTERS

They want to get ahead of Blues and Reds with a $178m deal for the Dutch defender

LONDON • After signing Ederson from Benfica yesterday for a British record fee of £34.9 million (S$62.1 million) for a goalkeeper, Manchester City are preparing a £100 million deal for Virgil van Dijk, the Southampton centre- back.

According to The Times of London, City are ready to pay Southampton more than £50 million and give van Dijk a five-year contract worth about £180,000 a week, nearly four times his current salary, in a bid to beat Chelsea and Liverpool for the defender's signature.

It marks another sign of City's aggressiveness in the transfer market as manager Pep Guardiola seeks to overhaul his squad after finishing third in the Premier League in his first season in charge.

City also spent £43.6 million to sign midfielder Bernardo Silva from Monaco last week.

Chelsea thought that they were in pole position to sign van Dijk, as they were willing to pay him £170,000 a week - about £50,000 a week more than what he has been offered by Liverpool.

Southampton are holding out for about £60 million as they must pay Celtic 10 per cent of the transfer fee for a player they bought from the Scottish club for £13 million two years ago.

The 25-year-old Dutchman could partner John Stones, whom City bought for £47.5 million from Everton last year, in a new-look defence.

Guardiola also hopes to add Kyle Walker, a right-back who may cost a similar sum from Tottenham Hotspur, and Benjamin Mendy, on the other flank, from Monaco.

The back four alone would cost almost £200 million.

The City manager is likely to sign up to six players this summer, with Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez among his other leading targets.

Losing out on van Dijk would be a blow to Chelsea, who were unable to agree a deal for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly last summer and instead re-signed David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain.

Liverpool have made van Dijk their top summer transfer target and missing out would amount to a serious setback to their hopes of building on their top-four finish.

But their new chief executive Peter Moore, who started work yesterday, claimed that they do not have to spend like City to be successful.

"There is money to back the manager and the sporting director," the 62-year-old, a former Microsoft and Electronic Arts executive, said.

"You can expect the team to be strengthened, but we won't be spending £100 million just because Manchester City has spent £100 million. What I have learnt over the years is that it is not how much you pay but what you get for your money."

Benfica released a statement yesterday saying that they have reached an agreement with City to sell Ederson for £34.9 million, which eclipses the previous highest fee paid by a British club for a 'keeper when David de Gea moved from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United for £18 million in 2011.

The goalkeeping situation was one of Guardiola's biggest problems during his debut season in England despite the signing of Barcelona's Claudio Bravo for £13.75 million.

The Chilean failed to impress and Guardiola resorted to rotating him and Willy Caballero in the end as City finished third in the league - 15 points behind Chelsea at the top - and were eliminated from the Champions League in the last 16 and lost an FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal.

Joe Hart spent the season on loan at Serie A side Torino and the England No. 1 is now likely to leave the club on a permanent deal.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'City leading race to sign van Dijk'. Print Edition | Subscribe