Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has revealed that he was in the race to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton but had to concede defeat as Liverpool paid too much for his signature. The Reds paid £75m to bring him to Merseyside, a world-record sum for a defender, topping Manchester City's deal to sign Kyle Walker in July.

The Blues were unwilling to pay more than £50m ($67m) for the Dutchman, which led to them to miss out on yet another transfer to Liverpool. The Blues have already failed in their attempts to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last summer, who also made his way to Anfield, despite there being genuine interest from Chelsea for his signature.

Van Dijk had a dream start to his career at Anfield, scoring the winner in their 2-1 win over Everton in the third round of the FA Cup. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that his presence will help shore up the defence, with the Reds culpable of being light at the back, which has cost them a horde of points over the season.

Conte revealed that he was interested in the player but like is common in football and in life, you do not succeed in landing all your top targets.

"This is football," Conte said, as quoted by the Independent. "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."

Meanwhile, the Reds completed the transfer of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for a record £142m ($187m), which will go a long way in addressing the other deficiencies in the squad. Conte is alive to the boost that Liverpool have received after selling the Brazilian for such a humungous fee and believes they will put the money to good use.

"But Liverpool bought Van Dijk to reinforce his defensive line, and I think Van Dijk is a top defender," he added. "And they spent [75] million pounds for this player. The same time, they sold very well 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.

"But I have great respect for the other teams, from the other managers, because behind every operation there is a programme, is a plan and I have great respect for every manager, ever team."

Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk has made a brilliant start to life at Anfield. Getty