Wednesday 23 January 2019

Comment: What happens next in the scramble to sign Virgil van Dijk?

Virgil van Dijk has been Liverpool's top transfer target throughout 2017
Virgil van Dijk has been Liverpool's top transfer target throughout 2017
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The battle to sign Virgil van Dijk is set to be one of the dominant stories of the January transfer window and as was the case last summer, Southampton will have the final verdict on the future of their unsettled Dutch centre-back.

The story last Saturday revealing that Southampton are in negotiations with Liverpool over Van Dijk fired the starting gun on what the south coach club will hope becomes a bidding war between the Anfield club, Manchester City and other clubs for a player who is regarded as the prize catch of next month’s transfer scramble.

Defenders of Van Dijk undoubted quality have rarely been available for mid-season transfers in recent years, with his eligibility to play in the later stages of the Champions League making his signature all the more valuable for clubs eager to spend big in a bid to take them to the next level.

With that backdrop in mind, Southampton officials are fully aware that they are in the driving seat in these lucrative negotiations and while we revealed that Liverpool have lodged a bid that is close to their valuation of the player, Saints can now wait to see whether City, Chelsea or any other club can match or better that offer.

Van Dijk’s eagerness to join Liverpool will work to the advantage of the Anfield club, but the player may not have the final say in his next career move as Southampton will accept the offer that best suits them for a player they remain reluctant to sell.

With three and a half years left on his contract with Saints, the club’s decision to consider offers for a player they resolutely refused to do business on last summer is consistent with the clubs policy laid out throughout 2017.

They were keen to make a statement that they would not be bullied into a deal on Van Dijk in last summer’s transfer window and despite endless streams of speculation to the contrary, the held firm and refused to consider any offers to sell a player even after he handed in a transfer request.

Southampton felt they had to make a stands to keep all their best players last summer after several years of selling their star names and hoped bing Van Dijk would reengage with the club’s ambitions and change his stance on his future.

As we reported on throughout  last summer, Southampton were always expecting to review that position in January if Van Dijk continued to agitate for a move and while annoyance remains over Liverpool’s unsolicited approach for the player, they will now consider a deal with the Anfield club for their top target.

Manchester City have also held talks with Southampton over signing Van Dijk, but Liverpool had the biggest offer on the table in the run up to Christmas Day and the player remains keen to move to Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

The prospect of being the kingpin of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool defence clearly appeals to Van Dijk, with the notion that he may not be first choice to start in Pep Guardiola’s City team another reason why he may be wary of a move to Manchester.

Yet the narrative of this story will be written by Van Dijk’s current employer and while Liverpool have more hope than they have had for some time that they can sign the player who has been their top target throughout 2017, they need to spend big to make it happen.

However, the prospect of getting involved in a bidding war with the financial juggernaut that is Manchester City is the nightmare scenario for Anfield officials.

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