Tuesday 23 July 2019

John Aldridge: Over-priced Virgil van Dijk is now a must-have for Jurgen Klopp

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Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

John Aldridge

There are two big reasons why Liverpool would be right to hand Southampton the vast transfer fee they are demanding to sign Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window and I hope the rumours that a deal is close are true.

We all appreciate that Southampton’s valuation of their Dutch centre-back is ridiculous, but the oil-rich owners who have taken over the Premier League have changed price structure of the transfer market and we have to accept where we are now.

The television money flowing into the Premier League now means clubs can justify paying way over the odds to get top quality players and Van Dijk has now become a necessity for Liverpool after chasing him for so long.

There are rumours that Manchester City and Chelsea also want him, with the clubs backed by sugar-daddy owners always willing to spend the kind of money that can blow all their rivals away, but Liverpool have to take them on this time and get Van Dijk.

Friday night’s 3-3 draw at Arsenal provided more unwanted evidence of Liverpool’s inability to see out a game from a winning position, with individual errors costing Jurgen Klopp’s side once again after they established a 2-0 lead.

A dominant leader at the back could have steadied the ship when Arsenal snatched a goal, but they folded like a deck of cards once more and it should have been the final trigger to sanction what would be a world record deal for a defender to get Van Dijk.

All the indications are that Southampton will consider selling the player now and after he made it clear last summer that he wanted to join Liverpool ahead of any other club, the Anfield board have to go after him again.

His arrival would not solve all of Klopp’s defensive problems in one hit, but he would be the powerful defender they are lacking and it would send out a signal that Liverpool are serious about competing for top players.

While £70m is a lot of money for one player, it’s small change in modern Premier League clubs and the reality is that Liverpool will probably collect £120m from selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona next summer, so this is effectively investing money that will arrive later in 2018.

I suspect a deal is probably in place for Coutinho to be sold next summer so by getting Van Dijk now, Liverpool would have a chance to have a real go at challenging for the Champions League and second spot in the Premier League in the second half of the season.

The other reason why I believe Liverpool need to sign Van Dijk is relevant for the entire Premier League, which is in danger of being taken over by Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side.

Let’s take nothing away from City as they are a great team and will be worthy Premier League champions this season, but they have spent almost £400m in the last two seasons alone to build this team and I’d expect them to be where they are now.

They are molopolising the signing of the best young players in the world and getting anyone they want by paying crazy wages, so Liverpool would make a real statement if they went and got Van Dijk from under their noses.

If it turns out that City get the player because they had bigger pockets, Liverpool fans will question the clubs ambitions once again, so I hope this is a moment to make an exception and join the craziness that is the modern transfer market.

Liverpool are so close to having a great team as the front four of Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are as good as I have seen watching the club over the last 50 years.

The problem is they don’t have the same quality at the other end of the field and while we all believe the idea of spending £70m to sign a centre-back who has won nothing in his career is ridiculous, Liverpool have to do it now.

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