Liverpool have reached an agreement with Southampton to make long-term target Virgil van Dijk their first January signing in a deal that will see the Dutch international become the most expensive defender in football history.

The Telegraph first reported on Wednesday afternoon (27 December) that the two clubs had settled on a £75m ($100.4m) fee for Van Dijk - a figure that easily eclipses the estimated £54m that Manchester City paid to Tottenham Hotspur for right-back Kyle Walker in July.

The deal stands alongside Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United as the joint-second priciest ever seen in the English top-flight, behind only Paul Pogba's £90m return to Old Trafford in August 2016.

Van Dijk, who was also closely coveted by both Premier League leaders City and defending champions Chelsea, is said to have signed a long-term deal at Anfield on wages of approximately £180,000-a-week.

Liverpool maintained a keen interest in the wantaway 26-year-old after claiming to have ended their pursuit in June. They initially apologised to Southampton for "any misunderstanding" following suggestions that they were about to be reported to the league over an alleged illegal approach.

"Liverpool Football Club can confirm they have reached an agreement with Southampton for the transfer of Virgil van Dijk," Liverpool said in a statement confirming the deal.

"The Reds have agreed a deal with the south coast club, and the player himself, that will see the 26-year-old defender move to Anfield when the transfer window re-opens on January 1, 2018. The Netherlands international will be assigned squad number four, upon his arrival at Liverpool."

Southampton's statement confirmed that they would receive a world-record fee for a defender by selling Van Dijk. The formerly influential captain made only 12 appearances in 2017-18 after being slowly reintegrated back into the squad by manager Mauricio Pellegrino following an ugly summer saga that saw him ordered to train alone after submitting a transfer request.

The former Groningen and Celtic favourite was dropped for recent matches against Chelsea, Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur and also missed the last four months of last season due to a serious ankle injury.

"Southampton Football Club can confirm it has reached an agreement with Liverpool over the transfer of Virgil van Dijk," the Saints relayed via their official website. "Southampton have agreed a fee that will set a new world record for a defender.

"The club wishes Virgil well in his future when the deal is completed on January 1st 2018."

'Delighted and honoured'

Giving his response to that imminent transfer, Van Dijk said he was "delighted and honoured" to sign for Liverpool and claimed that today was a "proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football".

Writing on social media, he said: "I can't wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special in the years to come."

Van Dijk, who follows a well-worn path from the south coast to Merseyside previously trodden by the likes of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Rickie Lambert, also thanked Southampton for offering him the chance to test his abilities in the Premier League despite a testing period in which his relationship with the club severely deteriorated.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to [executive director] Les Reed, the board, manager, players and fans and everyone at Southampton," he added. "I will always be indebted to the club for giving me the opportunity to play in the Premier League and despite a difficult last few months I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saints and have made friends for life at the club. Thank you for everything.

"Thank you for all the messages of support. I'm now looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and getting started. YNWA."

Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk will leave Southampton for Liverpool on 1 January Getty Images