Pundit Charlie Nicolas has revealed that Southampton almost bought Manchester United’s Eric Bailly but instead opted for Virgil van Dijk.

The Saints have been rightly lauded in recent years for their recruitment policy, with the south coast club unearthing some gems after bringing players to the Premier League.

Van Dijk has been no exception, with the Netherlands international impressing since moving doth of the border from Scottish champions Celtic.

The Dutchman has formed a formidable defensive partnership with Jose Fonte, but it all could have been so different.

Bailly was in Southampton’s sights as well apparently, but the south coast club moved for Van Dijk instead.

“A former team-mate of mine from Aberdeen is one of their Spanish scouts and he identifies Spain and Portugal, and he was telling me, Southampton have more scouts than anybody else touring Europe,” Nicholas told Sky Sports.

“They nearly bought Eric Bailly, who went to Man United. They ended up not buying him because they decided to sign Virgil van Dijk. They are very clever.

“They have every angle covered and they have that sensational academy too so you couldn’t get a better balance than what they have.”

Bailly was United’s first signing of the Jose Mourinho era at Old Trafford and the Ivory Coast international has impressed so far in the Premier League.

A serious knee injury picked up against Chelsea is expected to keep the African enforcer on the sidelines until the new year, in a real blow for the Red Devils.

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