It’s been blatantly obvious for a while that Jurgen Klopp needs & wants to improve his defence.
Name: Virgil Van Dijk
Current Club: Southampton
Height: 6’4” (193cm)
Some are unsure whether Liverpool will stick with Simon Mignolet in goal despite an upturn in form & many are contemplating signing a goalkeeper after the unconvincing start to Loris Karius’ career at Anfield. Left-back is also on the agenda, with out of favour Alberto Moreno seemingly on his way out after links to Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan & AC Milan. This leaves midfielder James Milner as the only obvious left-back next season, so all signs point towards a new signing there this summer.
However, with Joel Matip looking somewhat injury prone despite obvious qualities, Dejan Lovren being characteristically inconsistent & Ragnar Klavan seemingly only convincing enough to play as back-up, it’s clear Liverpool must strengthen themselves at centre-back too. A Champions League campaign next season is a real possibility & a squad must be built in order to deal with the difficulties of extra fixtures, or Klopp may be faced with a fatigue induced injury crisis once again.
Various names have been speculated upon by fans across social media & the terraces of Anfield after loose link to the likes of Michael Keane, Jonathan Tah & Kostas Manolas. Mamadou Sakho has even been suggested as an option once his loan has finished but all signs seem to point towards him exiting Anfield in the summer. One name has stuck in the memory of Liverpool fans after impressive performances against the reds & that is Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk. There are very few who can claim to be disappointed by the signing of Joel Matip but the question is who can partner him at the centre of defence. The hope is that the introduction of Virgil van Dijk can help transform a leaky defence into a resistance capable of mounting a serious title challenge.
Born in Breda in The Netherlands, Virgil van Dijk has had an interesting journey to marshalling Southampton’s defence. He started his career at nearby Willem II but moved to Groningen after just one season on a free transfer. After taking time to bed in, manager Pieter Huistra recognised his talent & stood by him. After establishing himself in the team in his second season at Groningen, Celtic came calling for his services. In the summer of 2013 the Scottish giants paid £2.6m for the big Dutchman’s services.
Two titles in two seasons in Scotland followed & Van Dijk’s meteoric rise really didn’t look like slowing down. After performances that got him selected for the ‘team of the season’ in Scotland, interest came from across Europe. Southampton managed to snag his signature & made a substantial £13m layout on him in September 2015.
Van Dijk looked completely at ease with the standard of the Premier League from the very start, proving a very capable replacement after the loss of Dejan Lovren in the previous season to Liverpool. A month into his Southampton career & the Dutch national team came calling too & has nailed down his place in ‘The Oranje’ squad since. Van Dijk has game critical acclaim from the best in the game, with former Liverpool favourite Jamie Carragher claiming ‘he looks like he has everything.’ Southampton have recently lost long-term captain & mainstay at the centre of defence in Jose Fonte making Van Dijk’s importance to Claude Puel vast. One thing is for sure, they won’t want to lose him & won’t let him go on the cheap.
Style of Play
A calm uncompromising defender – Van Dijk’s composed style of play has drawn comparisons to Mats Hummels & even Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia. A man of considerable size & strength, Virgil commands aerial duels. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to win aerial duels defensively & provides an aerial threat going forwards too, winning an average of 4.7 aerial duals per game, bettering the averages of Dejan Lovren (3.5), Ragnar Klavan (3.7) & Joel Matip (3.7).
His defensive capabilities don’t stop there either, Van Dijk betters all of Liverpool’s centre-backs in interceptions too, averaging 2.6 per game & in fact comes 10th overall out of all players in the Premier League. Van Dijk would face a challenge adapting to the style of Liverpool’s passing play however, as there is a clear disparity between the amount of sohrt passes Dejan Lovren & Joel Matip play compared to Van Dijk’s long passing game. He’s comfortable passing the ball & dribbling it out from the back however & that is something that could be key when opponents park the bus against Liverpool.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would argue that Virgil van Dijk wouldn’t improve Liverpool’s lacklustre defence. There are many different option available to Klopp this summer but with teams like Chelsea & Man City also in the hunt for a top cente-back it may be wise to act fast this summer. There is clear talent & potential in Van Dijk & the 25 year old Dutchman seems to be destined for great things. Even though there are other top quality alternatives like Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli or Jonathan Tah of Bayer Leverkusen, the Premier League experience that Van Dijk commands is priceless.
Southampton must be sick of the sight of Liverpool transfer bids over the past few years, having paid £91m to Southampton for 5 players. If Van Dijk does make the move from St.Marys to Anfield let’s hope he likens the path taken by Sadio Mane as opposed to Ricky Lambert. Southampton are believed to want £50m for Virgil, which is an awful lot & it’s hard to see Liverpool paying that.
However, a crucial bargaining chip here could be Mamadou Sakho who is seemingly on his way out of the club He could be ready made replacement for Claude Puel & this may persuade the Saints manager to take a part exchange deal of Sakho & cash for Van Dijk. One thing is for sure is that this transfer would not be in the ilk of the fabled money-ball technique of signing a player young & cheap to sell them on, Virgil would be coming in his prime ready to provide an immediate impact for the team & that is something that all Liverpool fans are crying out for.
Written by Rob Rogers