While Van Dijk eventually moved to Anfield, signing for Liverpool in a £75 million deal, Austin has now claimed that the Dutchman was very close to moving to Manchester United instead.
However, the Red Devils instead opted to snap up Benfica center-back Victor Lindelof on a four-year deal in the summer of 2017.
In the interview with talkSPORT, Austin said:
“I remember at the back end of his Southampton career we were on the bench together at Chelsea, and I said to him ‘come on Virg, what’s going on? Surely Man United must have been in for you’.
“He said to me, ‘in the summer, it was between me or Lindelof’. I couldn’t believe it, I was gobsmacked. There was talk in the summer that he was going to go there and they got Lindelof instead."
Liverpool eventually pipped Manchester United to sign Van Dijk
Van Dijk was reportedly linked with a move to several Premier League heavyweight, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. However, Southampton, who were under head coach Mauricio Pellegrino, refused to release the defender
Austin continued: 'I remember him (Pellegrino) getting everyone in pre-season and he got us all around, everyone on the pitch including Virg, and he just came out there and said:
"Look lads, Virgil wants to go and the club are not allowing him to go.
'He says he's not going to play so he's not going to train with us. (He said that) in front of everybody including Virgil, who was gobsmacked. (He had) no heads up from the manager or anything.
'He said, "you're going to train with the physio and the fitness coach." It was more down the line of stamping his authority, (doing) what he had to do. Albeit, he didn't move in the summer and two days after the transfer window shut, Virgil was starting again on the Saturday.'
However, in 2018, the Netherlands international penned a six-year contract with Liverpool, becoming the most expensive defender in world football. He has since gone to stamp his name as one of the finest defenders across Europe.
Since his move, Van Dijk has contributed immensely to Liverpool’s surge under Jurgen Klopp, helping them claim both the Champions League trophy in 2019, and a first Premier League title in almost 30 years.
The 29-year-old is currently sidelined with a long-term injury sustained in October, but reports suggest he could soon be back in action, as he has stepped up his rehabilitation by beginning some ball work training this month.