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Southampton swoop to sign Celtic centre back Virgil van Dijk

Southampton, 9/2 with Coral to achieve a top six finish this season, have secured the signing of Netherlands call-up Virgil van Dijk from Celtic on a five-year deal for a reported £11.5m fee.

Having failed to sign Belgium international Toby Alderweireld permanently after his successful loan spell last season, and watching him join Premier League rivals Tottenham instead, the need to strengthen their rearguard became all the more pertinent, particularly after recently conceding three at home to Everton without reply.

Although England cap Steven Caulker came in on loan from QPR, the Saints were keen to add further reinforcements, especially after Romania’s Florin Gardos sustained a long term knee injury in pre-season, and Van Dijk was quickly identified by manager and compatriot Ronald Koeman.

The dominant Dutch defender leaves Parkhead after failing to help his former employers secure a place in the Champions League group stages, surprisingly stuttering to a 2-0 second leg defeat at the hands of Swedish outfit Malmo, crashing out despite having led 3-2 from their first leg encounter. With the absence of European football for the rest of the season in Glasgow, Van Dijk has now moved on to test himself in the Premier League with the Saints.

Soccer - QTS Scottish League Cup Final - Dundee United v Celtic - Hampden Park

It isn’t the first time the club have had to find a major defensive replacement, following the departure of Croatian Dejan Lovren to Liverpool last summer.

Although Alderweireld came in on loan, in hindsight they should have signed him on a permanent basis to protect their chances of keeping him and in securing Van Dijk on a long term deal, they have at least ensured stability in defence for the foreseeable future.

Celtic have brought in Tyler Blackett on a season-long loan from Manchester United as a replacement for the Dutch defender, while the club are also close to completing a £5m move for Dinamo Zagreb’s 21-year-old centre half, Jozo Simunovic.