Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has revealed he passed up the chance to sign defender Virgil van Dijk for just £6million while managing Crystal Palace.
Liverpool paid a world-record fee for a defender when they signed Van Dijk from Southampton for £75m in January, and the Dutchman has made a considerable difference to Jurgen Klopp’s title chasers.
Van Dijk is now widely regarded as one of the Premier League’s best defenders and Warnock has recounted that huge missed opportunity.
‘I’m pleased Van Dijk is playing like he is because I think we could have bought him at Palace for £6m,’ said Warnock.
‘But my chief scout said he was too slow. I think he’s still in a job as well!’
Warnock raised eyebrows last season when he claimed that his Ivory Coast centre-half Sol Bamba is a better defender than the Dutchman.
Warnock, referring to his remark from last December, he said: ‘I think I’d been drinking if I’m honest!
‘What I meant was that if Van Dijk was in our team, you’d see if he was a good defender.
‘He doesn’t have to defend that much in Liverpool’s team because they’re usually in the other half.’
The Bluebirds climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone last weekend by beating Fulham 4-2 for a first win of the season.
But second-place Liverpool are unbeaten in the league this term and are only behind Manchester City on goal difference.
Liverpool thrashed Red Star Belgrade 4-0 in the Champions League in midweek, a game in which the celebrated strikeforce of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all scored.
Asked about Cardiff’s daunting challenge this weekend at his pre-match press conference, manager Warnock said: ‘It’s massive. It’s virtually impossible for any team in the current game.
‘I think the front three is probably the best in the world.
‘We’ve all got to play at the top of our potential to give them a good game and hope they have an off day.
‘It’s a special place in football, a remarkable place, but I think we can go there and cause problems.’
Warnock joked that he had looked at bookmakers’ odds which had priced Cardiff 70-1 to win 1-0, yet put Liverpool at 50-1 to triumph 7-1.
And he does not expect Liverpool to rest their top players for what many observers will consider a routine afternoon for Klopp’s side.
‘Someone said to me they’d rest Salah,’ added Warnock.
‘I said “what, when he’s got a chance of scoring five or six goals against us?” He’s going to want to play, isn’t he?
‘But if the front three were injured, the next three aren’t bad either.
‘It’s still an exciting place for us to be, especially where we were two years ago, and the fans know the boys are giving everything for the cause.’