VIRGIL van Dijk has expressed his desire to leave Celtic in the strongest terms yet as his frustration grows over his failure to achieve full international recognition.
The Dutch defender insists the time has come for him to face a new challenge in the English Premier League and believes Celtic should cash in on him this year.
Van Dijk has been highly successful with the Scottish champions since they signed him from Groningen in his homeland for £2.6 million two years ago.
He has two years remaining on his current contract with Celtic, where manager Ronny Deila has consistently stated he is under no pressure to sell one of the club’s prize assets. Deila is determined to retain van Dijk’s services at least for the duration of Celtic’s qualifying matches in the Champions League which begin next month.
But van Dijk’s latest comments, made in an interview with respected Dutch magazine Voetbal International, suggest it will be harder for Celtic to persuade the 23-year-old to remain with them for much longer.
“Of course the Champions League millions are important for Celtic, but they cannot dismiss any interest [in me],” said van Dijk. “If the correct amount is placed on the table, then they will really think about it, yes. If Celtic want to earn money from me, the club must act now.
They must understand that, as a footballer, sometimes it’s time to make a move.Virgil van Dijk
“There has been interest every summer and winter, especially from the Premier League. I stood there open to it, but Celtic decided not to sell me at that time. Yes, I was disappointed.
“They must understand that, as a footballer, sometimes it’s time to make a move. I’m learning in Scotland every day, but I also know there is more. I want more. It’s time for the next challenge. I am 24 this year, I’m ready for something new – more pressure, better opponents.”
Van Dijk has again been left out of the Netherlands squad this week for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Latvia in Riga tomorrow night.
Dutch manager Guus Hiddink has consistently ignored van Dijk, who believes the standard of domestic football in Scotland is one of the reasons.
“It’s my dream and my goal to play for Holland,” added van Dijk. “I keep setting targets and my aim is to make it as difficult as possible for the national coach to ignore me.
“I want to make it as hard as possible for him not to pick me for the European Championships in France next year.
“But that’s only possible if I keep performing well for my club. When you play in the Premier League in Holland and England, you get more recognition. That’s obvious.
“Whether it is right or not, I’ll leave that for others to judge. There are several people who have advised me to leave Scotland. They have told me it would improve me as a player and would help me get into the Holland squad. If I played in a major European league, then the probability of selection is greater. Does the Holland coach feel the same way? I don’t know.”
There are likely to be no shortage of clubs ready to test Celtic’s resolve to hold onto van Dijk this summer. A host of English Premier League sides, including Tottenham, Southampton and Sunderland, have been consistently credited with an interest in him.
Celtic would seek to ensure they find an adequate replacement for van Dijk. They have already signed Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City for £1.5m, compensating for the loss of his compatriot, Jason Denayer, who enjoyed an outstanding season on loan at Celtic last season but has returned to Manchester City.