Conte regrets losing top target in January window despite being ready to splash £50m

Antonio Conte has confirmed that Virgil van Dijk was a target for Chelsea before he moved to Liverpool, and it is understood that the Premier League champions are still looking for a centre-half.

Liverpool announced the signing of Van Dijk shortly before the start of the January transfer window, stealing a march on Manchester City and Chelsea, who had both been widely linked with a move for the 26-year-old.

Last month, Conte warned that City’s rivals cannot afford to allow the runaway Premier League leaders to further bolster their squad by signing Van Dijk, but speaking on Friday, the former Blues manager admitted that he would have rather wanted to see the defender at Stamford Bridge than Anfield.

It could have been very different, with Conte admitting he was keen to take the centre-back – but it is understood that we would only have paid £50m, a huge £25m less than what Liverpool shelled out.

“This is football. This is life. For sure he was our target but as you know this is football. We can have a lot of targets but you must be able to reach those targets. The transfer market is not simple for any club.

“Liverpool bought Van Dijk to reinforce their defensive line – and I think Van Dijk is a top defender. And they spent €85million for this player,” Conte was quoted by the Daily Mail.

The agreed fee for Van Dijk was a world-record sum for a defender, overtaking Manchester City’s deal to sign Kyle Walker in July. The signing of Van Dijk is one reason why Conte thinks that Liverpool will not really be weakened by the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.

“The same time, they sold very well – [Philippe] Coutinho – because when you sell a player for this amount of money, and then you have the rest of money to invest, to improve your team,” Conte added.

“But I think the transfer market is not simple, it’s not simple, especially if there is this amount of money.”

I think Van Dijk would have been a great signing as David Luiz has fallen out with our manager. Nevertheless, the market is wide open and the options are always aplenty.

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