Tuesday 25 June 2019

Dutch star faces tough task to prove his worth to Anfield faithful

Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA
Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA

Chris Bascombe

Virgil Van Dijk's arrival at Liverpool ends the most expensive, turbulent and protracted transfer pursuit in Anfield history.

At an eye-watering £75 million the Dutchman must now prove himself worth the hassle. He will become Liverpool's record signing by almost £40 million but the responsibility extends beyond validating the price tag.

The day Van Dijk lines up in a Liverpool jersey many will expect the defensive carelessness that has turned too many comfortable leads into infuriating draws will cease. There is considerable weight in the shirt Van Dijk has accepted. Given his price he will be expected to demonstrate the solidity of Ron Yeats, elegance of Alan Hansen and courage of Jamie Carragher.

It is a nigh impossible task for one player to cure Anfield ills that have persisted for several years - they plagued Brendan Rodgers before Jurgen Klopp - yet the 26-year-old not only finds himself branded the best man for the job, but the only option worth considering by the German manager.

Klopp would not entertain the idea of looking beyond Van Dijk last summer, despite it being clear Southampton would not sell to Liverpool before the August deadline.

inability That demonstration of faith caused short-term pain. Liverpool's inability to hold on to leads has cost them at least ten points in the first half of this season. Last Friday's 3-3 draw at Arsenal was the latest example of a fine team undermined by defensive flaws.

To finally secure the player is a triumph and relief for the Liverpool coach. Manchester City wanted him last summer but eased away once it became evident Van Dijk preferred Anfield. City tried again in recent weeks, but once more Merseyside proved more attractive than Manchester.

The motives for turning down City will be debated. It cannot be financial, nor can he see a more obvious route to silverware at Anfield. Competition for starting positions at the heart of Liverpool's defence is no barrier to Van Dijk immediately establishing himself should he find form. Rather more usefully, the more recent reference points set a lower bar than those legendary Liverpool centre-halves, The Kop craving a forceful presence at the back since Carragher retired three years ago.

There is the caveat amid Liverpool celebrating a transfer coup. The Van Dijk leaving Southampton now contrasts alarmingly with the player first coveted by the leading Premier League clubs. He has dipped since his return from injury and exile, which explains why Southampton's resistance to sell diminished. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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