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Why this Southampton defender is an early contender for signing of the season

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It’s fair to say that this year’s summer transfer window wasn’t the most enthralling. Despite this, every window calls for discussion in terms of the best signing. Many big-player names are mentioned, some who live up to their expectations; others not so much. But some players who don’t possess the reputation go under the radar. In this case, Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk is exactly that player. The question that lies is – Is Van Dijk an early contender for signing of the season?

The Dutch centre-back made his deadline day move from Celtic for a fee of £13.5 million, which raised the eyebrows of many. Van Dijk was soon to put these doubts to bed, as he helped to solidify Southampton’s defence. He and Jose Fonte have been a strong centre-back partnership, with Van Dijk stepping up to replace the position vacated by Toby Alderweireld last season. Now that Alderweireld has signed for Tottenham, St Mary’s has been perfect platform for Van Dijk to hone his skills.

Not only becoming a defence figurehead at the club, he’s contributed at the other end of the pitch too, scoring 2 goals in 7 league games. His abilities have earned praise on an international stage as well as he made his full debut for the Netherlands on 10th October in at 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Although the Dutch failed to qualify for next year’s European Champions, Danny Blind has showed constant faith by playing Van Dijk in those remaining qualification matches.

Southampton Football Club has been a great platform for Van Dijk to learn the style of play that the Premier League possesses. Many players that have come before the Dutchman have flourished when featuring for The Saints. Bale, Walcott, Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all names that have joined higher calibre clubs after honing their skills at St Mary’s. What must be a necessity for manager Ronald Koeman is to keep players like Van Dijk to progress as a club, challenging once again for European football.

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The Dutchman is very appreciative of his current club, understanding the player he was, and the player that he has become. In an October interview with NU Sport, he said: “At Southampton, I am learning so much in every game, much more than in recent years at Celtic, so I’m definitely going forward as a football player.” The key factor in Van Dijk’s improvement is the no nonsense approach to the league, keeping his head down and learning from players and coaches. The Dutchman also added: “The game is much faster in England than in Scotland. The midfield is sometimes like pinball, I had to get used to it.”

In comparison with other summer transfers, the Saints centre-back has to be up there as one of the top signings. He does often go under the radar, with Graziano Pellè, Dušan Tadic and Sadio Mané making the headlines on a weekly basis, but his composure, intelligence and threat in the box on set-pieces has to be praised.

Petr Cech and Dimitri Payet are also candidates for signing of the transfer window. Cech is similar to Van Dijk in terms of saving points for the team, but receives the praise a lot more with many expressing their approval of his £10 million move to Arsenal. Dimitri Payet has also earned praise for inspiring a number of memorable wins for West Ham already this campaign. His 5 goals in 12 league games has contributed to wins against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Van Dijk has brought a great amount of stability to Southampton, providing a platform for the more attacking players to be let loose. This has been proved with an away win at Stamford Bridge this season when Mané and Pellè were allowed to show their worth at the other end of the pitch. Whether authoritative figures deem other players to have had a better impact since the window closed, Van Dijk’s influence to his club cannot be forgotten.

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