De Boer said: “Van Dijk was one of the first men down on the team sheet so losing him makes Celtic a bit weaker. But Virgil leaving presents the chance for somebody else to step up and show their skills. Sometimes when a guy gets the chance to play regularly he can take a big step forward.”
Van Dijk left Parkhead to sign with Premier League side Southampton on transfer deadline day, ending his career with the Bhoys when Champions League football was no longer a possibility.
Whilst a liability at times, the 24-year-old centre-back was undoubtedly Celtic’s best defender, and as De Boer suggests, likely the first player on Ronny Deila’s team sheets.
However, the former Rangers hero has admitted that it could actually allow Celtic to discover another even better player, with Van Dijk’s departure meaning another player has to step up to replace him.
The likely player to take the Dutchman’s role in the team is Jozo Simunovic, who made the switch to Parkhead late in the transfer window. Arriving from Dinamo Zagreb, Simunovic is still only 21-years-old, but he is highly rated, and Celtic will allow him to play week-in-week-out to continue his development now that Van Dijk is with the Saints.
And if Simunovic starts to reach the level that Van Dijk was showing before he moved to Southampton, Celtic will have a real player on his hands.