There is an argument, though, for suggesting that his potential was not so readily spotted. The Dutchman has grown in influence and strength at Celtic after his move from FC Groningen in the summer for a fee of £2.6m on a four-year contract.
Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, is now pressing his defender's claim for a place in the Dutch squad and Louis Van Gaal, manager of the Nertherlands, will watch Van Dijk against Ajax on Tuesday.
Those observers who witnessed Van Dijk's unconvincing performance giants Shakhtar Karagandy in the first leg of a Champions League qualifier will urge caution. They have a case as defending is an art that is not fully grasped at a tender age and errors and mishaps will certainly lie on the road ahead for the 22-year-old.
There are, however, growing indications that the 6ft3ins Van Dijk may have the talent to match his frame.
He will play against Hibernian this weekend as he needs game time, having spent the international break distanced from his national squad. Lennon will place him at the centre of his plans to combat a gifted and fast-breaking Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday.
There is a slight feeling of mystification in Lennon when he considers why his defender did not have suitors from more lucrative leagues in the summer.
"I was over watching Ajax and they couldn't believe they had missed a trick with him," said Lennon. "Even the English clubs as well, because they have a lot of scouts in Holland. So maybe we have stolen a march on someone for a change."
Celtic, of course, have been astute in the transfer market but their strategy demands finding a gem and polishing it. A fully-formed Champions League centre-half can command a £10m fee and an annual salary of up to half that.
Celtic cannot afford that outlay on one player. They must watch closely, take a breath and then plunge. Lennon believes Van Dijk has shown his worth already.
"I'd like to think Virgil would get a chance with his country. Listen, Holland are a top, top team but for me he's been exceptional this season. He's got everything you want in a modern-day centre-half. He just gives us an extra dimension."
Van Dijk has played at under-19 and at under-21 level for the Netherlands and Lennon is convinced he has acquired a defender with stereotypical Dutch technique and traditional British values.
He points out that Van Dijk is commanding in the air with an excellent spring and a powerful defensive header.
"I just think he is a natural, a quality player. You could see it from his first day in training, or in the first game against Cluj in Germany," said Lennon of match in July on the Glasgow club's pre-season tour.
"He makes it look easy. People seem to think he has a laid-back attitude, but his work ethic is very high and he's a kid who wants to get better. We've been delighted with him. Van Dijk is fit every day, he trains every day, he has been low maintenance as well - so he has been a very good signing so far."
So how was this paragon missed, why did English clubs, who particularly value a physical centre-back, not take a chance at a fee that would have been extremely modest by Barclays Premier League standards? The Celtic manager indicates there may have been doubts about the speed of the statuesque defender.
"One thing I was worried about was his pace," Lennon conceded. "And then I watched him one night against Twente in a play-off last season and he was in a foot race with [Nacer] Chadli, the Belgian winger who has gone to Spurs. And I am thinking: 'He is in trouble here'. But he has opened his legs and you are thinking: 'Right, well that's that answered for you'."
Lennon brought in the Dutchman and Steven Mouyokolo from Wolverhampton Wanderers to join Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson as options in central defence. However, Mouyokolo ruptured his Achille tendon and will be out until early next year and a restless Wilson left for Nottingham Forest. The manager is pleased with the subsequent partnership formed between the Dutchman and the Nigerian.
"They are quick, both of them. Again, I think you need that - particularly in Europe. Efe is also playing very, very well," he said.
Both are likely to start at Easter Road today with Lennon eager to continue his side's strong form in the Scottish Premier League. As the Celtic manager considers his options with Ajax waiting on Tuesday, Pat Fenlon can reflect that he has recovered from a dismal European performance against Malmo which placed him under pressure early in the season.
"He has done well since Malmo," said Lennon, who believes the signing of Paul Heffernan from Kilmarnock was key. "He is a good player at this level. He is clever and seems to have got a decent partnership going with James Collins," added Lennon who also pinpointed the importance of midfielder Liam Craig to Hibs.
"They beat us at Easter Road last season and I don't want a repeat of that on Saturday. They took a lot of heavy criticism but what I like about Pat is that he has had major disappointments but he has bounced back really well."