Virgil van Dijk has gone on to become one of the most highly-regarded centre backs in the game following his record-breaking move from Southampton to Liverpool - but it was a transfer saga fraught with controversy.

The Dutch defender will be reunited with his former employers on Saturday as the Reds welcome the Saints to Anfield but it's fair to say the two clubs had a far from amicable relationship in the build-up to Van Dijk's mega-money move.

Liverpool eventually got their man for a club-record £75million in January 2018 but a dispute between the two clubs in the previous summer looked to have dispelled any chances of the transfer ever taking place.

In fact, so fractious was the relationship between the pair that Southampton even threatened to take legal action against Liverpool over their perilous pursuit of van Dijk in June 2017.

Virgil van Dijk signed for Liverpool for a club-record £75m in January 2018 - months after the Reds publically claimed they had ended their interest (

Image:

Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

At the time, the Saints accused the Merseysiders of making an illegal approach for the Netherlands captain as they attempted to lure him to Liverpool amid Van Dijk openly expressing his desire to move to Anfield.

Southampton's threats of legal action eventually led to Liverpool publically apologising for the "misunderstanding" and even claiming to categorically end their pursuit of the highly sought-after centre back.

Amid the controversy, the Anfield outfit stated: "Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs.

"We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk.

"We respect Southampton's position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player."

However, despite squashing speculation surrounding the signing of Van Dijk, Liverpool then sealed a deal for the Southampton centre back eight months later.

Since then, Van Dijk has played an integral part in a Jurgen Klopp team which has established itself as one of the best in the world.

Southampton threatened to take legal action against Liverpool over their pursuit of van Dijk (

Image:

GETTY)

The Dutchman marshalled the defence as Liverpool clinched a sixth European Cup triumph in 2019 before claiming European Super Cup and World Club Cup honours later in the same year.

Van Dijk then helped the Reds end their 30-year wait for a league title with Liverpool lifting the Premier League the following year as the 28-year-old reaffirmed his status as one of the world's best defenders.

Individual glory followed team success as the former Southampton man became the first - and only - defender to ever win UEFA's Men's Player of the Year award while also finishing runner-up for the Ballon d'Or and Best FIFA Men's Player in 2019.

Liverpool's high-profile deal for Van Dijk hasn't been the only time the two clubs have negotiated in recent years with the Reds having tapped up a number of Southampton's players.

In addition to Van Dijk, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane and Danny Ings have all trodden the path from St. Mary's to Anfield since 2014 as the two clubs have come to know each other well.

Old acquaintances will therefore be resumed on Saturday as the Saints make the long trip north to face an all too familiar foe.

Let's hope the action on the pitch is as dramatic as Liverpool's pursuit of Van Dijk.

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