Steve Bruce has revealed he attempted to sign Virgil van Dijk while he was manager of Hull.
Bruce will come up against the Dutch centre-back when his Newcastle side face Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
Van Dijk has established himself as one of the world's best defenders since joining the Reds for £75million from Southampton in January 2018.
And Magpies' boss Bruce has heaped praise on the Champions League winner and admitted he tried to add him to his Hull side before he left Celtic to make the switch to St Mary's in 2015.
“Virgil van Dijk: wow, what a player,” he said.
“We all know how good Liverpool are up front but signing him and the keeper [Alisson] gave Liverpool the backbone they needed, just took them to the next level.
“I could have taken him [Van Dijk] to Hull. I had dinner with Kenny Dalglish and the owner of Celtic, Dermot Desmond, in Barbados – I’m name-dropping now – and Desmond was waxing lyrical about the best players he’s had.
"He was saying: ‘[Henrik] Larsson is definitely, definitely the best I’ve seen play for Celtic in my ownership but what I can’t understand is nobody has gone for Van Dijk.’
“I thought: ‘That’s interesting, he’s seen a lot of football over the last 12 years,’ so I tried to get him before he went to Southampton but I had no chance.”
One player Bruce was successful in signing was left-back Andrew Robertson, who he will be reunited with at Anfield.
Bruce signed the Scotland skipper for £2.85m in 2014 and he spent three years at the KCOM Stadium before making the switch to Merseyside where, like Van Dijk, he has become a key member of Jurgen Klopp's side.
“Stan Ternent, my chief scout at the time, said: ‘I’ve just seen this kid at Dundee – we’ve got to take him,’” recalled Bruce, whose Newcastle side currently sit 14th in the table with four points.
“We did our homework. I went to see him and we took him. It was a little bit of a gamble.
“I remember him arriving with his mum, holding her hand. To be fair to him, we had a couple of injuries, I threw Andy in and he had an unbelievable debut against QPR.
"He hasn’t looked back, has he? He's been quite remarkable."